The acting head of the Roswell school district said she is pleased with the progress local schools have made and the gains students have shown during the past year as the state released school report cards Tuesday afternoon.
While the results showed improvements, they also showed that the four high school programs in the city continue to earn Cs and Ds.
“I am pleased with the results that highlighted the achievements of several individual schools in the district and the overall performance for (the Roswell Independent School District),” said Interim Superintendent Susan Sanchez in an email statement. “The average growth of RISD school grades was almost five points overall: elementary schools had an average increase over three points, middle schools had an average grade increase of about eight points and the high schools came in just over six points average increase in school grades.”
The Early College High School program, a joint program of Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell and University High School, earned a C this year, same as the previous year. Goddard High School earned a C, up from a D. University High scored a D, up from a F, while Roswell High continued to have a D for the third year in a row.
Overall, the grades for 2016-17 show that one district school earned an A (Del Norte), seven scored Bs (Berrendo Middle, Military Heights, Washington Avenue, El Capitan Elementary, Valley View Elementary, Monterrey Elementary and Sunset Elementary), four earned Cs (Berrendo Elementary, Early College High, Goddard High and Mesa Middle), seven received Ds (Sierra Middle, Missouri Avenue Elementary, Roswell High, Pecos Elementary, Mountain View Middle, East Grand Plains Elementary and University High) and one earned an F (Nancy Lopez Elementary).
Sidney Gutierrez Middle School also earned an A, as it has each year school grades have been issued. A district-authorized charter school, the school on the south side of Roswell is governed and administered independently of the RISD.
The results included two turnarounds that both Martinez and New Mexico Secretary Designate of Education Christopher Ruszkowski described as noteworthy. Sunset Elementary, which had earned an F for two years, earned a B this year. Mesa Middle School went from a D in 2014-15 and an F in 2015-16 to a C in 2016-17.
Sanchez said she thinks that continued effort will mean more improvements in future years.
“RISD now has only one school with a failing designation, a decrease from three F schools in 2016,” the statement read. “Intentional teaching, aligned 90-day plans, parent involvement and collaboration will ensure growth for the district and improve student success.”
Grades for entire school districts are expected to be released in about a month, earlier this year than in the past, said Ruszkowski.
He stressed the positive aspects of the results for many districts, although he noted that the state’s largest school district, Albuquerque Public Schools, had declining results in many aspects, including an increase in F schools.
“New Mexico’s schools are continuing to rise to the challenge,” he said. “We keep raising the bar for the weight of academic proficiency in our school grades. When you look at school grades, they’ve looked about the same in terms of distribution. But the story behind the story is that we raised the bar again with the weight of academic proficiency (in elementary schools) going up from 20 percent to 25 percent. … Whenever we move the bar up, our teachers and schools meet the challenge.”
Two highlights of progress, he said, are that 32,000 more New Mexico students attended A and B schools during the 2016-17 academic year compared to 2012, and 95 percent of New Mexico high schools have increased their rates of students testing as career- and college-ready.
He added that the state has made this year’s school report cards “parent and family friendly,” with more laymen’s terms used and with a blunt statement informing adults that state law allows parents to switch their children from “chronically failing” schools, defined as those earning Fs two times in the last four years.
Ruszkowski described Roswell’s results as “steady,” but added that there are improvements worth mentioning.
“Six years ago, 30 percent of your schools were As and Bs. Today, 43 percent of your schools are As and Bs,” he said. “You’ve decreased the amount of Ds and Fs from 45 percent to 38 percent. … You see a lot more B schools in Roswell, which is good. … Roswell is also one of the few large districts showing really solid growth in math.”
He credited progress to several factors, including local educators’ participation in the Principals Pursuing Excellence and Teachers Pursuing Excellence professional development programs and the teaching of math to Common Core standards as opposed to teaching to the curriculum.
“You had two schools that went up more than two grades (Sunset and Mesa) and you have zero schools that dropped two grades,” he said.
Ruszkowski said that in the coming weeks, he will visit Roswell, as well as other cities, with A schools for three reasons, to celebrate success, learn what is working and rally the community.
“I used to work in Delaware, and a senator there would always tell us, ‘Find out what is working and do more of it.’ It is a pretty simple idea, but if we, in the state of New Mexico, embrace that idea, we will continue to rise.”
The school report cards are available on the New Mexico Public Education Department website, ped.state.nm.us.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.