Los Lunas Middle School upgrades to a 'B' after appeal


The Los Lunas Schools won its appeal on the grade Los Lunas Middle School received from the New Mexico Department of Education.

In June, the district appealed the grades of both Los Lunas Middle School and Los Lunas High School, but only the middle school appeal was accepted.

"With Los Lunas Middle School, there was some data that could be counted toward the school's grade, not necessarily test scores, but parent involvement and extracurricular activities that we didn't get the full amount to the state at the time of the grading," said Superintendent Bernard Saiz.

The principal, Victoria Baca, was given a week to gather all the documented data on student involvement in activities such as sports, band, student council, cheerleading, AVID, Gear Up, science projects and other extracurricular programs, plus the documented parent involvement to send to Santa Fe.

With that supporting data, PED officials decided to move up the middle school's grade from a C to a B, Saiz said.

"We're very, very proud of the middle school," he said. "We're very happy. Traditionally, middle schools have not done well across the state in their test scores or in their grades, so for one of our middle schools to be at a B level, we're very proud of them. I think it's a great feather in the cap of Los Lunas Schools."

Baca received the good news from the superintendent on Tuesday.

"I was very excited yesterday, to finally have it finalized from a C to a B," said Baca Wednesday. "We've worked very hard, and had a lot of support from Superintendent Saiz, Mr. Williams, Ms. Sanders, Mr. Brian Baca, and we've all just been working very hard."

"Our entire staff is elated and so very proud," said Peggy McLoughlin, a LLMS bilingual teacher.

When the principal had initially seen the breakdown of the school's grade, she believed there was a discrepancy in the points awarded for parent involvement and student extracurricular activities.

"We should have gotten more bonus points with all the activities we have going at this school," Baca said.

What she learned from the process was a deeper appreciation for documentation, even though it wasn't clear what all the state allowed to be included for the bonus points calculations.

In Baca's original school documents, she didn't record the sports activities, and only found out later she could have.

"Mr. Hendricks from the other middle school and I spoke and we're like, that's a daily activity, games occur all the time, so we assumed not to put that in, and we should have," she said. "They (PED) only record (sports) for high schools."

The New Mexico Activities Associations records all the data on high school sports.

Baca attributes part of her school's progress to the Professional Learning Communities that have been in place for the past four years.

"We're very excited and just want to keep moving it up," she said.

The district had originally planned to appeal Sundance Elementary School's grade as well.

"We were intent on appealing Sundance, but we didn't feel like we had a strong enough case," said Assistant Superintendent Ron Williams.

He said there are still a lot of unknowns about the state's grading system.

"This successful appeal was only one of 17 in the entire state," Williams said.

What's frustrating to district officials is the ambiguity of the state's method of calculating the grades, he said.

"We have one of the top statisticians in our district, if not the top statistician, and he has a cadre of colleagues who are similar in skill to his, and we do not have one educational statistician in the state that is able to replicate the model from PED," Williams said.

The superintendent believes in the new grading system, but said he has seen the public education department make a number of mistakes in school districts throughout the state.

"They don't seem to have the process down pat yet," Saiz said. "What's frustrating is I wish that they would just admit this is a new thing, they're working on it, it's being developed, but it almost seems to be they want to be infallible, and not admit that they're making mistakes."

-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.