SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — About 70 percent of New Mexico’s public schools improved or maintained their letter grade that rates their performance this year, and more than a third received an A or B, state officials announced Thursday.
The grades assigned by the Public Education Department depend heavily on results of standards-based tests taken by students and reflect other factors such as a survey of students to gauge their views about learning opportunities at their school. For high schools, graduation rates and participation in college entrance exams also play a role in the grades.
About 35 percent of schools improved their grades, 36 percent maintained them and 29 percent dropped.
Statewide, there were 306 schools with grades of A or B — slightly more than the 303 receiving a D or F. The number of schools receiving an A more than doubled from last year.
Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera said the grades showed schools trending in the right direction but there remained much to improve.
About 10 percent of schools received an F. That was up about 2 percentage points from last year. Elementary and middle schools accounted for all of those with an F.
Schools receiving grades of C through F qualify for state aid to help boost student achievement. About 2,000 educators were trained in 2012-2013 on possible ways to improve their schools.
Statewide, 82 schools earned an A — up from 40 last year. A total of 224 schools got a B compared with 203 last year.
Schools with a C dropped to 230 this year from 274 last year. The number of schools with a D declined to 218 from 250 last year. Schools getting an F increased to 85 this year from 64 last year.
“We want to see progress across all grades that is sustainable over time so our students are better prepared for our workforce and life,” Skandera said in a statement.
This is the second year for the A-to-F grading program, which replaced an unpopular federal system for rating schools under the No Child Left Behind Act.
The federal system determined whether schools were making “adequate yearly progress” in meeting targets for improving student achievement. Educators criticized that as a pass-or-fail approach rather than measuring the progress that schools and students might make.
Had the federal ratings continued, only three schools statewide would have met performance measures and 99.6 percent would have been considered failing.
Gov. Susana Martinez pushed for the new grading system when she took office in 2011. President Barack Obama’s administration last year granted New Mexico the flexibility to implement its own school rating program rather than follow the federal mandates.
“New Mexico’s new A-F system allows us to identify and invest in schools that are struggling, while providing a much more useful and clearer picture to parents and community members of how each of our state’s schools is preforming,” Martinez said in a statement.
The governor and Skandera announced the grades during an appearance at a public charter school in Albuquerque.
Grades statewide largely reflected trends in student test results. High school students improved their reading proficiency scores on standardized tests taken earlier this year, but there were declines for students in grades 4-6.
Among high schools, 87 percent improved their letter grade this year. None earned an F and only one had a D.
Nearly 49 percent of elementary schools received a D or F grade — up almost 6 percentage points from last year. Only six earned an A compared with 20 last year.