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School Designations Updated After Review Found Accountability Failures

The New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) recently revised school accountability designations for the 2022-2023 school year, acknowledging the original designations released to the public last November were incorrect for many New Mexico schools.  This move was made after a visit from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) revealed the department’s accountability calculations were not aligned to federal requirements and contained significant errors.

Annually, as required by state and federal law, PED releases school designations based on student performance on the New Mexico Measures of Student Success and Achievement (NM-MSSA), the SAT, other state assessments, and additional measures. School designations range from Spotlight and Traditional, to designations that signal support is needed, including, TSI (Targeted Support and Improvement), CSI (Comprehensive Support and Improvement), and MRI (More Rigorous Intervention). These allow PED to identify schools that require varying levels of additional support and funding based on their performance and improvement needs.

If a school disagrees with their designation, they are allowed to appeal.

Why PED Re-Issued Scores

In the fall of 2023, the PED was inundated with two hundred eighty (280) appeals from districts and charter schools.

Janelle Garcia, PED Deputy Director of Communications & Public Relations, said this unprecedented volume of appeals prompted an internal review of the PED’s accountability processes and business rules. During this review, Garcia explained that PED discovered discrepancies in how technical business rules were applied, which did not align with the state’s 2019 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Consolidated State Plan (CSP) and its 2021 ESSA CSP addendum.

A critical finding from the United States Department of Education’s site monitoring visit in September 2023 was that the PED had mistakenly exited schools from their designated support categories (ATSI, CSI, and MRI) too early in the 2021-22 cycle. The initial identification of these schools occurred in 2019, but due to procedural errors, were prematurely removed from their designated support categories.

Consequently, PED had to reinstate these 2019 designations and appropriately categorize or exit schools in the 2022-23 cycle.

The PED has since revitalized Vistas with the correct designations and a new design to help promote educational equity and ensure that no student group or school falls behind.

Ongoing Challenges and Accountability Measures

The 2023 site monitoring visit by the USDE was a critical turning point, revealing fundamental errors in the PED’s previous processes and necessitating immediate corrective actions.

This is not the first time the PED has faced criticism over accountability and assessment data. State assessment results were not released for the 2022-2023 school year until October, months after the next school year began. After the data finally came out, revealing that most of the state’s students are not meeting their grade level requirements, New Mexico’s secretary of education wrote a letter to superintendents and school leaders, arguing for more accountability from the schools.

Secretary Arsenio Romero argued the need for accountability at all levels of the education system. Romero’s sternly-worded letter to district leaders called for a break from the status quo and demanded accountability and excellence from everyone involved in New Mexico’s education system.

The letter came out after the US Education Department’s site visit that found PED’s accountability model had failed. Months later, PED was required to reissue school designations to fix their own accountability failure.

Garcia said that PED plans to focus on ensuring its accountability models and data management practices are robust and aligned with federal guidelines.

To view updated school designations and performance indicators, visit nmvistas.org