Tests Show Proficiency Problems, Achievement Gap

Deborah Baker, AP, Aug. 18

SANTA FE—Tests taken by nearly 195,000 New Mexico students this spring showed problems with proficiency in reading, math and science and an ongoing achievement gap among ethnic groups.

State Education Secretary Veronica Garcia, who announced the results Thursday, said the state’s “rigorous standards are challenging our students.”

This year’s tests were new and tougher, and more students took them, so comparisons with prior years are invalid, Garcia said.

The department had announced in early August that based in part on the test scores, about 54 percent of schools did not make so-called adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

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Well over half the students were less than proficient in math. The third graders did best, with 43 percent of them ranked at or above proficient. At the other end of the scale, not even 20 percent of students in grade 7 were proficient or better.

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In general, Anglo and Asian students fared better than Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans, although Garcia said it appears Native American students “are beginning to inch ahead.”

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New data shows a correlation between physical fitness, obesity and academic achievement. The highest levels of childhood obesity are seen in American Indian and Hispanic populations, Garcia said.

She also said language remains a barrier to achievement. About 19 percent of students are designated as English-language learners, according to the department. The test is given only in Spanish and English, and about 3 percent of students take it in Spanish.

Some American Indian students speak languages that are not written, Garcia said, and it’s “a big jump” for them when they get to school.

American Indians came in behind Anglos, Asians, Blacks and Hispanics in reading, math and science in all the grades tested.

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