Hobbs News Sun

HMS gets mixed grade results

HMS gets mixed grade results

A mixed bag of emotions landed on the doorstep of Hobbs Municipal Schools when district officials learned the grades for 18 Hobbs schools from the 2017-18 school year.

The report card was handed out by the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) to school officials Thursday night and became available to the public on Friday.

Of the 18 HMS schools graded, nine stayed the same, while four went up at least one letter grade and five went down at least one grade. There were 14 schools which received a grade of “C” or higher.

Some eyebrow-raising grades to Hobbs residents is the two-grade improvement of Taylor Elementary, going from a “D” grade in 2016-17 to a “B” grade in 2017-18 and Highland Middle School going from a “B” to an “F” during that same time. One of the more gradual improvements is Mills Elementary. The school received an “F” during the 2014-15 school year. Four years later, Mills received an “A.” During that same four-year stretch, Jefferson Elementary rose from an “F” to a “B.”

Of those schools which did not perform well, Hobbs Superintendent TJ Parks said he didn’t fault teachers or principals for a campus receiving a lower grade.

“Accountability falls squarely on my shoulders,” he said. “It is my responsibility to ensure every child receives a quality education and every teacher receives the resources to be successful.”

Parks noted after reviewing the PARCC test results released this summer, he expected Highland to take a hit after the school showed negative growth in five of its six subjects. Those subjects are math and language arts for grades 6-8. Highland’s school grade the past four school years was an “F,” “B,” “B,” and “F” in 2017-18.

“They had negative growth, which is unheard of,” Parks said. “I don’t understand how that happened. When they had two straight “Bs” of positive movement, then all of a sudden they backward slid in five out of six categories? I don’t get it. It just doesn’t make sense to me how they can be horrible four years ago, then good for two years and then back to horrible again. I knew they would dip, but I thought they would get a ‘D.’ I’m shocked Highland got an ‘F.’ That exceeded my expectations. I wasn’t planning for that.”

Parks said part of the issue is the grading system. While 90 percent of the school’s grade is based on student performance, there is 10 percent that weighs those results against other like schools throughout the state. However Parks, like all the other school superintendents, don’t know which schools are compared to others.

“The thing that’s hard for me to gather is (NMPED) don’t compare or may not compare Highland to Houston or Highland to Heizer,” Parks said. “Those schools (compared to Highland) may be in Las Cruces or they may be in Albuquerque. We don’t know who that is. Highland’s success, or lack of success, is (partly) due to how those other campuses do. If those other campuses bomb, than Highland does better. It’s insane to me that there isn’t this bar that states if you cross this bar then you are doing well. That’s not the way it is.”

To help understand the state’s grading system, HMS hired Dr. Suchint Sarangarm as assistant superintendent for data analysis six years ago. He worked with district officials, like Parks, to better educate them on the system, while also creating avenues of learning for the students. Still, the results released has Parks scratching his head.

“If you are a parent, I cannot explain it to you,” Parks said. “I cannot explain this process to you.”

Parks was quick to say as a district, he believes Hobbs students, teachers and administrators are making positive steps.

“I just wish it was more simple to be able to explain to people,” he said. “Because what people don’t know, they expect the worst and if it was more simplistic, I think it would be a more successful program. We are producing a better product, but it is so complex that it is hard to explain the how and the why.”

According to New Mexico Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski, Hobbs joins Farmington and Gadsden as three of the larger school districts to have very few schools earning failing grades.

“Schools that continue to embrace best practices such as data-driven instruction, elevating teacher-leadership, increasing instructional time, intensive early intervention, consistent measurement of student outcomes, ongoing coaching and evaluation of teaching practicing, and spurring innovation continue to see academic gains statewide,” as stated in a press release by NMPED.

Parks said district officials are looking at the trending grades with some schools, such as Murray that in its three years has steadily dropped from a “B” to a “D.”

“What we’ve done at the elementary schools that has shown progress is how our reading coaches have gone in and spent a lot of time with them,” Parks said. “We will target Murray in that same way. We have schools like Broad-moor or Mills, who understand the process, therefore we don’t spend a lot of time there. We have some great reading coaches that will offer help to Murray and become another set of eyes and ears that will help us understand.”