PRESS RELEASE - March 31, 2004
New Mexico Public Education Department
300 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, NM 87501-2786

Ruth Williams
Public Outreach Director
(505) 476-0393

PED Proposes Changes to Plan for Fulfilling NCLB Requirements for Accountability

(Santa Fe, NM)--The New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) is proposing a balanced approach for meeting the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) in the area of student achievement. On March 31, the PED will submit proposed changes to the U.S. Department of Education to allow the state to institute a focused review of school performance.

The proposed changes are the result of collaboration with the Assessment and Accountability Council, an appointed council consisting of school district and higher education representatives knowledgeable in curriculum, assessment and accountability issues.

“School districts from across the state are on board with our proposal changes, which will benefit students in the long term and schools in the short term,” said Secretary of Education Dr. Veronica C. García. “In our changes, we are taking full advantage of the new guidance issued recently by the U.S. Department of Education.”

The PED will submit proposed changes to the New Mexico Consolidated State Application Workbook that will allow for the following:

· Implementation of the “safe harbor” provisions of NCLB so that a school is protected if it is showing appropriate growth with its lowest performing students. A school will not be included on the list of those not making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).
· Measuring student proficiency in a way that will allow schools to adjust curriculum to reflect a standards-based assessment system rather than a norm-referenced-based system. New Mexico is phasing out the norm-referenced system and implementing the standards-based system as required under NCLB. Under the proposed changes, students will move gradually toward meeting the new academic proficiency requirements, with stiffer expectations for improvement occurring in 2006. The federal deadline for students to reach 100% proficiency in mathematics and language arts is 2014.
· Applying a methodology that will ensure that the state is 95% certain that a school has not met AYP. Under the current system, schools identified as needing improvement could be misidentified as not making AYP.

· Reducing the number of non-academic indicators used to rate schools. Attendance will be used in rating elementary and middle schools and graduation, as required by NCLB, will be used in rating high schools.
· Recognizing a school’s efforts as it moves students out of the lowest performance categories to higher performance levels. Previously, a school under the state’s plan was recognized for increasing the percent of students who were identified as proficient or advanced.
· Changing the way students are counted for AYP to recognize the contributions a school makes to a student’s learning over a full year of instruction, rather than from the beginning of a school year to its end.

Regarding the new guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, the proposed changes reflect the following:

· Allowing for the state to exceed one percent of its students taking alternate assessments on a case-by-case basis.
· Allowing English Language Learners (ELL) in their first year in the United States to be assessed in reading/language arts based on how well they speak, read and write English.
· Providing for the improved academic performance of ELL students to be counted for two additional years after exiting an ELL program.

“NCLB requires that the state’s accountability system be valid and reliable. These changes are a positive move in that direction and will certainly affect our ability to ensure that no child in New Mexico is left behind,” said Secretary Dr. García.