NM 11th-graders improve in reading proficiency

June 29, 2013 • State News

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The st[auth] ate’s high school students improved their reading proficiency scores on standardized tests this year, but there were declines for students in grades 4-6, Gov. Susana Martinez announced Friday.

New Mexico has a “very long way to go to reform education” despite gains by some students, Martinez said.

“Even in areas where we see encouraging growth, proficiency rates remain very low relative to what our expectations should be,” she said in a statement. “Reform is a relentless commitment by each one of us to realize the full potential of all our students and to never give up until we do.”

The math and reading tests were taken this spring by 195,000 students in grades 3-8 and 10-11. Almost 51 percent were reading at their appropriate grade level and 42 percent were proficient in math. For reading, that’s an improvement of about 1.5 percentage points from last year and an increase of 0.5 percentage point for math.

Some of the largest gains came in high school reading scores. Martinez attributed that in part to the state establishing higher standards, including requiring 11th graders to achieve passing scores on reading and math exams to graduate from high school the following year.

There was a 9.9 percentage point increase in the reading proficiency rate for 11th graders, bringing it to 55.5 percent statewide — the highest mark since the state’s standards-based assessments began in 2007, according to the Public Education Department.

Tenth-graders had a proficiency rate of 41 percent in reading this year. That’s a gain of 6.3 percentage points.

For math, 42 percent of 11th-graders were proficient — a gain of 2.8 percentage points — and 30.2 percent of 10th graders performed at their appropriate grade level, which was up almost 1 percentage point from 2012.

For the third grade, the reading proficiency rate increased from 52.3 percent last year to 55.2 percent this year. That’s a turnaround from the three previous years when scores dropped for that grade level.

Gains for Hispanic, Native American and African-American students in third grade were larger than for white students. The department pointed to that as a promising sign that New Mexico can narrow the historic achievement gap among racial and ethnic minorities. White and Asian students typically fare better in tests than Hispanics, Indians and blacks.

Martinez also said there were indications of possible success for a state-funded initiative aimed at improving reading skills of students in early grades. The money helps schools provide reading coaches and professional development for teachers. A dozen districts and one charter school received grants under the program this year, and six of those had third-grade reading proficiency gains of more than 5 percentage points.

Reading scores declined in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades. Martinez cited that in renewing her support for legislation to require school districts to hold back third-graders who can’t read proficiently, rather than promoting them to the next class. The Democrat-controlled Legislature has repeatedly rejected the proposal, however.

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