September 1, 2004
New Mexico Public Education Department
300 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, NM 87501-2786

Ruth Williams
Legislative Liaison
(505) 827-7803 or
Pager: 988-0582
rwilliams@ped.state.nm.us

Secretary García Urges Districts to Explore Ways to
Increase Attendance Rates, Students Taking Tests

(Santa Fe, NM)--Secretary of Education Dr. Veronica C. García today urged school districts to explore ways to increase attendance rates and the number of students taking state tests in order to avoid a negative label under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Secretary Dr. Garcia told school district superintendents and school board members in a letter today that attendance rates and test participation rates are readily correctible issues that, if properly addressed, can free up school districts to more effectively focus their attention on improving student achievement.

“I recognize that it must be confusing to parents to see schools excelling academically and not meeting AYP because of factors such as participation or poor attendance. I urge you to take steps to inform your communities as to the exact nature of each school’s Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) status and efforts to improve performance in order to prevent an unfair rush to judgment about our schools.

“There are some issues that are readily correctible such as low participation rates and, for that matter, attendance. For example, 39 of the schools that did not make AYP were penalized, in part, because 94% or less participated from the entire student population on the test,” she said. Ninety-five percent participation is required by NCLB for schools to meet AYP.

“Addressing the issues above will allow you and your schools to more effectively focus your attention to the very core work that we do, which is teaching and learning and improving the academic skills of our students.

“We will not only leave no child behind but raise them all to high levels of academic performance. It can and will be done! ” she said.

Parents and the public can view each school’s accountability report on the Public Education Department’s web page, located at www.ped.state.nm.us, under the heading “New This Month.”