Portales fails to pass state tests

Tony Parra: PNT staff writer

The Portales Municipal Schools for the second year in a row failed to meet basic requirements for student academic performance and participation.
The school district did however showing improvements in reading in a majority of the student subgroups measured.
Portales failed to meet the federally mandated “adequate yearly progress” for special education students in reading in any of the grades tested and in two schools, Valencia Elementary and Portales High School, they were not proficient in math either.
Two subgroups at the Portales High that failed to meet standards established by the No Child Left Behind Act — Hispanics and the economically disadvantaged — passed in 2005.
“We’ll continue to look at the data and try to address it the best way we can,” Portales Superintendent Randy Fowler said. “Our teachers have been working extremely hard and it shows in the improvements. We will continue to have expectations to do better.”
The Broad Horizons Educational Center for grades nine through 11 met standards in reading but not in math.
Meanwhile, Dora and Elida met standards while Floyd met proficiency standards with all of its subgroup from each school except for the economically disadvantaged group from the middle school.
New Mexico schools are measured in several areas including dropout rates at the high schools, attendance rates at the grade and middle schools, reading and math proficiency for multiple ethic groups, special education students and the economically disadvantaged.
Special education students affecting the AYP mandates is not just a problem in Portales, but in the United States.
Don Watson, assistant secretary for the assessment and accountability division of the New Mexico Public Education Department, said many schools across the nation fail to meet AYP and many blame it on unfair standards applied to special education students, according to a PNT article in mid-July.
Students who are severely mentally challenged can take an alternate AYP test, Watson said. But a small group of students who are mildly or mentally disabled must take the same test as their peers with accommodations, something Watson said is flawed.
“We’re still held accountable,” said Priscilla Mestas, Portales; director of instruction. “We’ve made improvements in special education despite not meeting AYP. I commend the teachers for that.”
For example, she cited students with disabilities in grades fourth and fifth showed a 12 percent increase in reading proficiency.
According to the state, 54 percent of New Mexico schools did not meet proficiency standards.
However, schools in similar size and makeup such as Lovington and Ruidoso met standards.
The special education subgroup did not meet AYP in reading for either the Lovington or Ruidoso school district in any of the grades tested.
The test results also showed a considerable gap between Hispanics and Caucasians in math.
There were similar-sized gaps in reading in a district which is primarily made up of Hispanics and Caucasians.
There were similar gaps between Caucasian and Hispanic students at Floyd.
“We’re (New Mexico superintendents) still trying to see why there is that difference,” said Floyd Superintendent Paul Benoit, who started with the district July 5. “I’m not sure of the breakdown in this district. I know in Animas we implemented a program for both parents and children in Spanish-speaking homes to learn English.”