Michael Maresh, Rio Grande Sun, December 15, 2011
An Española School District administrator is blaming the District’s low test scores on the high number of Hispanics who attend the high school in comparison with other nearby school districts.
In a PowerPoint presentation to the Española School Board Dec. 7, Curriculum and Instruction Director Christiana Blea-Valdez said Española’s ACT scores cannot be compared to Los Alamos or La Cueva High School because of differences in the racial makeup of the districts.
She said 69 percent of students at Los Alamos are Caucasian while 24 percent are Hispanic. At La Cueva almost 68 percent of the students are Caucasian, while 29 percent are Hispanic.
Nearly 90 percent of Española’s students are Hispanic, according to state Education Department data.
According to information Blea-Valdez provided to the Board on Dec. 2, Española’s students had the lowest 2009 ACT scores in English, math and reading and tied for last in science when compared with the school districts of Gadsen, Moriarty, Pojoaque and Rio Grande.
“It’s unfair to compare any school district in the state to Los Alamos,” she said.
Blea-Valdez, who makes $75,500 a year, said a better comparison for Esapñola would be school districts with similar demographics. She said the Pojoaque School District would be a good gauge because Española loses many students to this neighboring district every year. She also said Española needs to convince its students to take the test more than once, adding students almost always do better on subsequent tests.
School Board President Coco Archuleta was upset with Blea-Valdez’s assertion that Española’s students score low on tests because a majority of them are Hispanic.
“I do not see how being poor or Hispanic has anything to do with learning,” he said.
Archuleta called Blea-Valdez’s comments a poor example and a bad excuse, saying all school districts can be compared with each other. He said the expectations could be higher at other school districts but scores have nothing to do with race.
Blea-Valdez tried to backtrack at the meeting, saying in no way did she mean poor or Hispanic students cannot learn, and explained afterward, on Dec. 9, that she was trying to tell the Board the reasons Española’s schools cannot be compared to schools with different demographics.
Board member Floyd Archuleta also did not buy Blea-Valdez’s explanation that the high number of Hispanic students is the primary reason why Española’s test scores are low.
“A lot of our students who have come out of our schools are doing well,” he said.
Blea-Valdez said the only way scores will improve is for the entire community to come together with the focus being to give students the same opportunities as what students receive in other school districts.