PED finds mixed results on English proficiency tests

October 9, 2013 • Local News

The [auth] state Public Education Department (PED) analysis of Roswell Independent School District results in tests of proficiency in English among students designated as current learners of English was released last week and presented at Tuesday’s district Board of Education meeting.

The analysis of the results for the 2012-2013 school year show that the district has met state standards for improvement and proficiency in English as tested by the Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State for English Language Learners (ACCESS) test used nationally, but that the district lags behind on the State Based Assessment (SBA) of academic proficiency in English.

Kenneth Bewley-Cadena is the district director of bilingual programs and Title III programs, which relate to English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction. He said that while the district did not meet state standards for SBA results, it has shown improvement in the assessments of both tests over time.

“It’s not as if we’re stagnant,” he said.

He said that the district was considering amending the measure to just reflect growth, in part because it is counter-intuitive to measure the proficiency of students who have been identified as non-proficient in English.

“If your students are growing every year, which is what our students are doing, we would meet that goal,” he said.

PED sets targets each year to determine the overall performance of districts. These targets are the percentages of students the state agency wishes to see test high enough to show progress in learning English, show overall proficiency in English and show academic proficiency in English. The targets raise every year.

The term “proficiency,” as used in both the ACCESS and SBA tests, refers to students being able to comprehend information relayed in English as well as their native-speaker peers. Neither test is grade-based.

Whether students are making progress is determined by whether test takers who have scores from at least two years of ACCESS tests have scored at least half a level higher on the six-level test since the previous year they took it. According to results, of 828 RISD students with two sets of scores, 476, or 57 percent of two-time test takers, showed improvement. This exceeded the state target of 47 percent of test takers.

Students who score at a level of five or six for attaining proficiency on ACCESS are considered proficient in English. Proficiency is measured for all test takers, not just those who have taken the test in previous years.

Of 1,084 students who took the ACCESS test in the district, 19 percent are considered proficient in English based on their scores. The state target for proficiency as reflected by ACCESS scores is 10 percent of students in a given district.

SBA is different from ACCESS in that it is based on New Mexico’s curriculum for public schools. The test looks at whether students can comprehend academic information, whereas ACCESS looks at overall proficiency in English. PED’s assessment of SBA results for the district looks only at results of tests distributed to students in grades 3-8 and 11.

Eighteen of the district’s 20 schools participated in ACCESS testing in the past academic year. Of these 18 participating schools, 14 met PED benchmarks for proficiency in both measurements of the ACCESS test.

In order for a district to achieve academic proficiency on the SBA test, the district must meet PED designated percentage targets in rate of participation of the test, graduation rate and proficiency in reading and math.

District results of SBA show that 44.5 percent of students scored high enough in the reading section of SBA to be considered proficient at reading in English. The state target in reading proficiency is 56.7 percent of test takers. In the math section of SBA, 34.9 percent of the district’s English-learning students scored high enough to be considered proficient at understanding math problems relayed in English. PED’s benchmark percentage for a district to achieve sufficient proficiency among its test takers in the math section is 50 percent.

Only three of the district’s 20 schools achieved high enough percentages of students deemed proficient in the math and English portions of the SBA test to be considered proficient overall in digesting academic information in English. These schools were Berrendo Middle School, Mesa Middle School and Sidney Guiterrez Middle School.

The district exceeded PED’s benchmark for participation in the SBA test, but fell below the state standard for the graduation rate of students who speak English as a second language. One hundred percent of English-learning students in the district took the SBA test, exceeding the target test participation rate of 95 percent. However, 59 percent of test takers in their senior year of high school in 2012-2013 graduated, falling below the PED’s 71.8 percent graduation rate benchmark.

Bewley pointed out that elementary schools with the highest number of English-learning students performed relatively well on the tests. He said that the district’s three elementary schools that offer bilingual programs—Pecos Elementary, Sunset Elementary and Nancy Lopez Elementary — deserve to be commended.

“If you consider the amount of students they have that are ELL [English Language Learners], they’re doing a really excellent job in moving their students up,” he said.

All three schools met PED targets based on the ACCESS test, but none met targets based on SBA.

Bewler will host meetings in Spanish at campuses throughout the district to discuss the meaning of ACCESS and SBA test results. To learn when a meeting may be held at a specific school, contact the specific school or Bewler’s office at 575-627-2586 or

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