According to results from the New Mexico Public Education Department, the number of public schools in the state that earned a grade of A or B have dropped by 10% this year with slightly more schools receiving a D or F.
The number of schools in New Mexico that earned a D or F rose by 3% this year, going from 323 in 2014 to 333 this year. Of the 848 public schools in the state, 40% received a lower grade than last year, with high schools being affected the most, as 58% dropped at least one letter grade.
Schools began to receive letter grades in 2012 in order to offer the public a better picture of overall school performance as well as to boost accountability.
Education Secretary Hanna Skandera said the state expected a decrease in A's and B's due to a recent introduction of the PARCC tests, or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. According to the results, 297 schools received an A or B this year, while 332 schools received one of the two grades in 2014.
"We knew this was a baseline year. We implemented new standards, which is the right thing," Skandera said. "So this was an important year to establish that baseline so our teachers and school leaders should be proud."
Meanwhile, six of every ten schools received the same grade or better for the 2014-15 school year. In all, 218 schools received a C, reports Russell Contreras for Las Cruces Sun-News.
Much of the grades come from results of the new PARCC tests which were administered last spring, in addition to other measures, including a student survey. Teacher evaluations, which a state judge recently said could be used to punish or reward teachers while a challenge to the system goes through the courts, are not considered in the school grades.
The school grading system did see changes this year, including the use of kindergarten through second-grade DIBELS scores, as well as third-grade performances. High school freshmen now take part in state testing, adding around 20,000 more students to reflect high school scores.
PARCC tests were administered in the state for the first time last school year, resulting in protests and parents opting their children out of the testing while arguing that the tests were too hard and took up too much class time. This was most prominently seen in Albuquerque Public Schools, which had 22 of the 156 schools in the district drop a letter grade due to having 95% of their students not participate in the assessments.
However, Skandera said she believes those schools in the state that are embracing educational reforms are seeing the most significant improvement, writes Kim Burgess for The Albuquerque Journal.
"Those who are staying where they are and not aggressively pursuing change, you see that when you use a tougher assessment," she said.
She added that the scores should be taken as a wake-up call to districts across the state to make a push for higher scores. New Mexico typically comes in last, or second-to-last, in the country on most educational measures.