New Mexico applied for and received a waiver from utilizing Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) as a benchmark for scholastic success. Ten other states received the same waiver. Public schools in New Mexico now use another standard for measurement.
“Our current assessment is the third hardest in the country,” says Nesbitt. “In addition to multiple choice responses, our third and fourth grade students must give constructive responses, many of which contain three parts.” Nesbitt welcomes the challenge.
’Zozo and Capitan public school grades range from B to C, according to New Mexico Public Education Department School Grade Report Cards released in July. Capitan and Carrizozo high schools received C’s. Carrizozo Middle School received a C, while Capitan Middle School earned a B. Both elementary schools earned a C.
“Public education is in a crisis, and school reform is here to stay. We have the moral responsibility to assimilate to what kids need,” says Perry, who is proud of his mid school report card. “We went from a D minus last year to a B this year. Our students implemented changes and I’m proud of both our students and our staff. Our middle school is now one of the healthiest schools in Lincoln County.”
Both Perry and Nesbitt admit the need for improvement and have worked with staff to implement changes. “The level of expectation for our staff has increased, and I’m confident the staff is up for the challenge,” says Perry. “We’re focusing on the key areas of language arts (reading) and math, looking at the specifics of what we teach and how we can better communicate the basics of learning.”
Capitan’s Perry is incorporating a new enrichment class for grades 6-12. “The sole purpose is to focus on individual weaknesses of our kids. We hope to close the achievement gap and give each student a chance to succeed.” Enrichment classes will be at the beginning of the academic day, and each student will be leveled according to test results. Short cycle assessments will both give the base for each student and provide regular statements of individual progress, and will give staff the ability to make mid-year course corrections if necessary.
“We realize that learning is life-long and we want all our students to feel like they can continue their education,” says Nesbitt. ’Zozo’s schools offer dual credit, Advanced Placement, and online courses to ’Zozo students and as many educational options as possible. “We know many of our students are technology driven and want to give them survival skills and offer more courses to help them achieve success,” says Nesbitt. Dual credit classes offer students both high school and college credit from the same class. Dual credit classes are also offered at Capitan High, and four students graduated last year with both their high school diplomas and Certified Nursing Assistant certifications.
Carrizozo’s elementary students answered questions regarding their opinions of classroom teaching practices. Responses to statements dealing with teacher feedback, explanations and teacher expectations were ranked high by students. Their responses indicate they feel the learning environment is ripe for success at ‘Zozo.
For all NM public schools, areas measured for report cards include current standings in math and reading performance, school grade level performance growth in the past three years, growth of both the highest and lowest performing students and the overall student opinion of their opportunity to learn. With a window of testing time given by the state, students were tested in March during morning hours for approximately three hours a day for six days.
Both Perry and Nesbitt agree improvement is their goal for the coming academic year. “With so many NM benchmarks and standards to measure, our staff is challenged to make sure we teach all of them,” says Perry. “We’re refocusing on what we teach and are going to center on common core standards. We’ll also continue to run our Men in the Halls program, along with student led improvement groups like Youth for Christ and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD)”
“Our benchmarks will be assessed regularly. We’ll make mid-year corrections if necessary to assure our school grade level is raised by next year,” says Nesbitt.