Acknowledging a major miscalculation, the New Mexico Department of Education last month dropped all 94 schools from its annual most-improved list, reassigning $1.8 million in reward money to a totally different group of 101 schools.
To make the “high improving” list, schools had to show significant improvement between 1999 and 2000 in their students’ scores on the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills or the New Mexico High School Competency Examination.
Kathryn Weil, the state department of education’s assistant superintendent for accountability and information services, said that the two years’ scores had inadvertently been reversed in the computer, creating a list identifying schools as most improved even though their scores had either not improved much, or in some cases, actually dropped.
“This is really unfortunate,” Ms. Weil said. “We appreciate the support and patience of the schools because we know it’s been difficult for them in their communities.”
But many school administrators weren’t feeling patient or supportive. The dramatic turnaround— from the first list on Oct. 6 to the second on Oct. 20—has left some elated and others infuriated.
Frank Fast Wolf, the principal of Santo Domingo Elementary School, in an Indian pueblo 30 miles north of Albuquerque, said he was relieved to see his school included on the revised list, since his 4th graders’ test scores soared after the school implemented the Success for All whole-school- reform plan.
“When we were on that second list, it really validated our hard work,” he said.
But Danny C. Burnett, the superintendent of the 8,600-student Los Lunas school district south of Albuquerque, has demanded an audit of the list-making methodology. His district’s high school lost out on a promised $117,969 in reward money when it was dropped from the first list.
“No one has been able to explain this to me,” he said. “I think there’s a credibility gap.”
Michael J. Davis, the state superintendent of schools, apologized for the mistake and said in a statement that he knew that the schools on the first list were “striving diligently every day to improve outcomes for children.”