Teachers tune up curriculum

Tony Parra: PNT staff writer

Portales school teachers are getting ready for the school year by setting up steps for students to ensure a smooth transition to another grade level.

On Wednesday and Thursday, teachers with math and language arts backgrounds fine-tuned curriculum for the upcoming school year.

Patsy Neely of Re:Learning New Mexico conducted workshops with the teachers. New Mexico Public Education Department representatives assign Re:Learning New Mexico officials to help with New Mexico school teachers with curriculum. Neely went over what math problems are being covered and what third grade teachers expect the second graders to know math-wise before entering the third grade, for example.

Other subjects were covered earlier during the summer.

“We are proud of the teachers at Portales schools,” Neely said. “We’re boosting our enthusiasm for the upcoming school year. We’re very excited about this year.”

Teachers gathered information from the New Mexico Content Standards, Benchmarks and Performance Standards books to learn more about what tests require students to know and so they can incorporate it in their classes.

Teachers are also requesting additional information on the criteria and reference tests from the New Mexico Public Education Department. The tests were used to help determine whether school districts met the federally mandated adequate yearly progress standards.

“We want to know how these tests (CRTs) are aligning with ACTs and PSATs,” said Pam Shafer, a Portales Junior High eighth-grade math teacher. “I had an eighth-grader who did well in the ACTs and struggled with the CRT.”

Some Portales teachers expressed frustration over the “doesn’t meet AYP” label placed on the school district despite most schools achieving a majority of the indicators required.

Among the concerns teachers had about the CRTs were:
• That one subgroup can cause an entire district to fail to meet AYP;
• More weight is placed on writing an explanation of a math problem than the actual answer;
• Tests are conducted in late February, thereby eliminating three months of instruction and forcing teachers to cram a year’s worth of instruction.

“In math, students are graded more on what they write than the answer,” Carol Hazel, fifth-grade teacher at Valencia Elementary, said. “They receive more credit on what they write.”

The special education subgroups did not meet AYP in all of the district’s grade, middle and high schools in reading, causing the Portales School District to not meet AYP.

Special education subgroups not meeting AYP was a problem Portales schools shared with most of the state. Of the 41 high schools (excluding the charter high schools) which met AYP, only three had special education subgroups which met AYP.

The other 38 high schools which met AYP did not have enough special education students in the subgroup to qualify for an AYP status. There has to be at least 25 students in each subgroup.