August 2012 Column

Success for All!

As I review the recent grades from the Public Education Department for the various campuses, it concerns me that as a district we are not reaping the benefits of the hard work and dedication of the staff and students. I feel it is my obligation to the district and the community to make sure their efforts truly reflect our educational standards.

Hobbs Municipal Schools is blessed with community partners who allow us to purchase and use programs that are highly rated among educational experts. If the New Mexico Standards Based Assessment were judged on our current programs, I believe we would score as well if not better than any school district in the state.  The problem is - although we have tremendous programs – these programs do not align with state testing standards.  My message to staff is to continue to use these wonderful programs, but supplement them with additional materials to fill gaps between our current curriculum and the NMSBA.  Administrators have worked throughout the summer with a cohort of teachers to create scope and sequence documents that will enable our entire staff to adjust their lesson to current standards - even though we know a new Common Core system will be implemented across the state in two years. It is frustrating that we are placing such emphasis on a system that is nearing its end of life.

In the meantime, New Mexico’s A-F grading system rates schools on their proficiency level as well as student growth compared to other students across the state. That means in order for Hobbs to rate a grade higher than “C,” our students must demonstrate higher growth and proficiency than the rest of the state. Ninety percent of the A-F grading is based on the NMSBA tests given each spring. 

I will be the first person to criticize the use of standardized testing for measuring the worth of a school or a teacher.  Tests should be used for measuring growth. My emphasis is on students progressing to the point where they can be successful in the path they choose following graduation.  The current high-stakes testing has not changed my mind, but has altered my leadership in order for students, community and staff to be successful. 

The state of New Mexico is also in the process of transforming the system for evaluating its teachers and principals. The new model will use student results to measure a teacher’s level of competence. Core teachers in grades 3-8 and 11 will have 50 percent of their evaluation based on student competence of the NMSBA. Teachers who are not in tested grades or tested disciplines (such as art, choir, physical education, etc.), will have 25 percent of their evaluation based on the grade of their campus. I continue to voice my displeasure with this system. However, until it is changed, I feel obligated to give staff the tools to be successful in their evaluation. 

Success is objective (a specific score for proficiency) and subjective (feel good).  The nearly 9,000HMS students have a wide range of success. Academically advanced students may deem success as acceptance into an Ivy League school where another student may equate success with learning skills that help him or her gain employment immediately after graduation. Yet another group of students may reach success by learning lifetime skills that help them to live independently.

Finally, I feel an obligation to the community of Hobbs,whose residents should be proud of  our staff and students and the hard work that goes into education every day at HMS. We also want the business community to point to our schools as a positive recruiting tool when trying to bring staff or industry into the area. “Success for all!” can be achieved.  We will continue to improve to make this community proud to be an EAGLE!

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