LL Board of Ed considering new grad policy

........................................................................................................................................................................................

The Los Lunas Board of Education is considering creating a new policy that would act as a safety net for graduation requirements, and hopes the New Mexico Public Education Department will accept it.

The new policy, "Alternate Demonstration of Competency," would allow a broader spectrum of student achievement to fulfill graduation requirements. It would help students who did not meet all the Standard Based Assessments or end-of-course exam standards, said Los Lunas Schools Assistant Superintendent Ron Williams.

Williams gave the first reading of the document at the Feb. 12 board meeting. A second reading was given Tuesday for any revisions before the board votes on it. The entire policy can be viewed on the district's website.

The new policy was initiated in response to PED's decision to no longer allow marching band to substitute for a PE credit.

"It (the policy) would look at a broader spectrum of students' achievements and competencies in a portfolio format, said Williams.

The state uses SBA and EOC test scores as the graduation requirement; the ADC policy would add other student achievements.

"Although PED may say we cannot get credit for a particular class or graduation requirement specifically, in talking to our attorneys, we found that we could create a policy that allows the district to add some different means to reach that same level," said Superintendent Bernard Saiz.

For example, if PED requires a certain score on a test, say 195, but a student scores only 193, the district is asking PED to look at the student's overall grade point average, short cycle assessments and other academic achievements.

"This is one more way that we are trying to give our students an opportunity that, although they may not be able to meet exactly what PED is asking for, they can meet the equivalency of it," Saiz said.

"The board recognizes that all students must demonstrate competency in the subject areas of reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies in order to receive a New Mexico Diploma of Excellence," the policy states. "However, students who are unable to demonstrate competency using traditional assessments should have the right to demonstrate competency through alternate means."

The board is also looking at how the district might be able to factor in other academic work students may have been involved, such as dual enrollment classes, Williams said.

"I don't believe kids should be held hostage because of the way something was brought in," said Williams. "We think we haven't been given enough lead time to effectively plan and have students have their graduation in check by the speed this has all been put in place. We do not have a good feel for how these tests were designed, and we want more latitude to see if our kids are making the cut or not."

It is being created, according to the New Mexico Administrative Code Public School Accountability, that specifically says local school administrations can determine the competencies, Saiz said.

"My understanding is that there is going to be a move from PED next year to change that, where it doesn't allow local administration to do that, but that's the loophole that the school lawyers have found that allows us to do this," he said. "I think it behooves us to pass this policy … it's something we can do to try and help our kids."

As of this date, there is legislation to reinstate marching band, ROTC and participation in an athletic sport as substitutions for PE credit waiting for Gov. Susana Martinez's signature.

"There was a House bill and a Senate bill that were both similar, and they both got passed," Saiz said Tuesday. "So, I don't know what it's going to look like when the governor signs it. It'll be a combination or one or the other, but they're almost identical."


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