2013 SBA Scores Show Record Gains in High School Reading Proficiency



BERNALILLO – Gov. Susana Martinez announced Friday the results of the latest Standards Based Assessment (NMSBA), administered earlier this year to New Mexico students in 3rd through 8th grades, as well as 10th and 11th grades.


New Mexico’s 11th grade class posted impressive gains in reading proficiency, increasing proficiency rates by 9.9 percentage points over 2012 – to the highest level seen since the NMSBA began in 2007. As a group, when factoring in the gains that were also posted by this class when they were 10th graders last year, these students have increased their reading proficiency rate by 20.8 percent and math proficiency rate by 12.7 percent over the past two years. 11th grade reading proficiency gains were higher for Hispanic (10.6 percent), Native American (11.3 percent), and African American (8.9 percent) students than were seen for their White counterparts (6.1 percent.)


New Mexico 10th graders also posted a significant increase, raising the percentage of students proficient in reading by 6.3 percent over 2012 figures.

“It’s no coincidence that new accountability measures at the high school level have led to increased expectations and achievement by our high school students,” Martinez said. “We increased the cut score for what constitutes proficiency two years ago, and students now must prove their understanding of basic subjects before being allowed to graduate from high school – a form of social promotion prevention at the end of their public school experience. I firmly believe that higher standards can promote student growth.”


In the critical area of 3rd grade reading, New Mexico’s students improved by roughly 3 percent over 2012, reversing a 3-year trend of declining 3rd grade reading scores. Though the differences were small, proficiency gains were higher for Hispanic (3.1 percent), Native American (2.8 percent) and African American (7.5 percent) students than their White counterparts (2.4 percent.) In addition, English Language Learners increased their reading proficiency scores by nearly three times as much (7.7 percent) as non-ELL students (2.6 percent.) Overall, 66 percent of school districts improved in 3rd grade reading.

At the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, 12 school districts and 1 charter school received the first round of “New Mexico Reads to Lead” funding for district-specific interventions, including the addition of reading coaches and opportunities for intensive professional development for teachers. They were selected on a competitive basis, based on the strength of early literacy plans submitted by interested districts. After only one year of these interventions, these participating districts improved 3rd grade reading scores by an average of 7.8 percent – well over twice the statewide improvement rate of roughly 3 percent. Ten of the 13 recipients posted reading proficiency gains, with six of the 10 increasing proficiency rates by more than 5 percent.

“As the Governor has often said, education reform must be rooted in the belief that every student can learn, and must be motivated by a willingness to target our investment in education on proven efforts to improve the achievement of our struggling schools and students,” Secretary Hanna Skandera said. “We have an incredibly long way to go when it comes to raising the reading skills of our 3rd graders, and we should not be satisfied by modest gains. Our high school students are demonstrating how targeted reforms can yield results, so there should be no excuses for why we can’t expand successful efforts to every student in every grade in New Mexico.”

The most concerning SBA results are for students in the 4th, 5th, and 6th grades, where reading proficiency rates declined by 4.1 percent, 3.8 percent, and 1.5 percent, respectively, over 2012. These students represent each of the 3rd grade classes that posted declines in the last three years, and provide a strong case for enacting legislation to prevent the passage of unprepared students to subsequent grades. An inability to read well can clearly make learning much more challenging in the future, and it’s apparent that far too many 4th, 5th, and 6th graders in New Mexico are struggling to read at an appropriate level.

“If we can begin to better prepare students in early grades to read, then we can improve the achievement of our students throughout the rest of elementary, middle, and high school. Learning only gets harder for students who are passed along without the ability to read well,” Martinez said. “We must end the practice of allowing social promotion because it sets our children up for discouragement and failure – and there’s no compassion in that.”

Overall, across all grade levels, proficiency rates between 2012 and 2013 rose only slightly in math – to 42 percent. Proficiency rates in reading rose from 49.1 percent to 50.6 percent, amounting to roughly 4,000 more New Mexico students reading on grade level, with much of the gains in high school and 3rd grade being offset by losses in other grades.

“We have a very long way to go to reform education in New Mexico in a way that yields sustained and significant gains in reading across the board for our students,” Martinez said. “Even in areas where we see encouraging growth, proficiency rates remain very low relative to what our expectations should be. Reform is a relentless commitment by each one of us to realize the full potential of all our students and to never give up until we do.”

Aggregate SBA scores:



Note: When referencing increases or decreases in proficiency rates, they are presented as percentage points.


Complete 2013 NMSBA results by district, school and grade can be found at the PED website: http://www.ped.state.nm.us/AssessmentAccountability/AcademicGrowth/NMSBA.html


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