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Superintendent's News

Posted: September 16, 2022

Measuring Outcomes: A Message from Supt. Scott Elder

In his weekly message to employees, APS Superintendent Scott Elder writes about using state assessment results to help improve student achievement.

There’s an old saying in the business world: what gets measured gets done. In other words, regularly measuring and reporting outcomes can help us focus on what we want to achieve.

In our business of public education, that achievement would be the academic success of all students, and the measurements we use are wide and varied.

From classroom assignments, projects, papers, and portfolios to interim district assessments and state standardized tests, we are continually measuring the strengths and shortcomings of student progress, staying on course when the indicators are positive, and making adjustments as needed.

The results of last spring’s state assessments are among the measures we can use to modify how we teach reading, math, and science in our schools, especially in the aftermath of COVID. Not surprisingly, the results for Albuquerque Public Schools and school districts across the state reflect the heavy impact of the pandemic. Just over a third of APS students in grades 3-8 tested proficient in English/language arts, and about a fourth were proficient in math. In high school, four out of 10 students were proficient in English and writing, and just under a fourth were proficient in math. In science, 32 percent of fifth graders, 30 percent of eighth graders, and 45 percent of juniors tested proficient.  

It was the first time our students took these assessments:

  • The New Mexico Measures of Student Success and Achievement in elementary and middle school
  • The SAT School Day in high school and  
  • The New Mexico Assessment of Science Readiness in fifth, eighth, and eleventh grade

The tests replaced the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers for English/language arts and math and the New Mexico Standards Based Assessment for science, which the state’s students last took in 2019. (Because educators like acronyms so much, you may remember these as PARCC and SBA, which MSSA, SAT, and ASR have replaced.)

There are many differences between the old and new tests. For example, students in fewer grades took the tests last spring, and the test time was cut nearly in half. The new tests feature more multiple choice questions created by a group of 89 New Mexico educators. And the results are classified into four instead of five achievement levels: novice, nearing proficiency, proficient, and advanced (in high school, the achievement levels are well below state expectations, below state expectations, at state expectations, and above state expectations.)

Because the annual assessments are so different, we really can’t compare year-to-year results. Instead, we should use last spring’s results as a baseline for targeting instruction to improve student outcomes. Reviewing the data will help us make needed adjustments, gather resources, seek additional professional development, and provide supports as we move forward.

We need to pay particular attention to the assessment results of our marginalized students – students growing up poor, those who don’t speak English at home, students with disabilities – as well as some of our racial groups. As a district, we will continue to look at programs and services to help these students achieve alongside peers in other student groups.

State assessments provide concrete data that shows what we’re doing well and what we need to do better to steer our students to success and growth. Of course, many student virtues don’t translate into data – determination, for example, and self-worth, effort, citizenship, potential. At both school and district levels, we need to use all information available to us to make the best decisions for the students we are educating toward a positive future.