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Testing in New Mexico: An Overview

A GreatSchools guide to standardized tests

By GreatSchools Staff

Although test results are only one measure of student achievement, they have become increasingly important in assessing student learning. In 2008-2009 New Mexico used the New Mexico Standards-Based Assessment (NMSBA) to test students in grades 3 through 8 in reading, math and science. Grade 11 students took the New Mexico High School Standards Assessment (NMHSSA) in reading, math, science and social studies. The NMSBA and the NMHSSA are standards-based tests, which means they measure specific skills defined for each grade by the state of New Mexico.

The New Mexico High School Competency Examination (NMHSCE) is given to grade 10 students in reading, language arts, math, science, writing and social studies. High school students must pass all sections of the NMHSCE in order to graduate.

The information provided on GreatSchools profiles is for the 2008-2009 year.

How are the tests scored?

NMSBA and NMHSSA results show the level of proficiency a student demonstrates in each of the subject areas tested. Students are rated at one of four performance levels: beginning step, nearing proficiency, proficient or advanced. The goal is for all students to score at or above the proficient level.

NMHSCE results show the percentage of students passing each of the subject areas tested. The goal is for all students to pass each part of the NMHSCE.

Which results are included on GreatSchools profiles?

Although New Mexico's testing program includes a variety of tests, only the NMSBA and NMHSSA scores are included on GreatSchools profiles. For each subject displayed, the combined percentage of students scoring at or above the proficient level is displayed.

GreatSchools also displays subgroup results to show how different groups of students are scoring in comparison to the overall student population in a given grade and subject. These subgroups are identified by the New Mexico Public Education Department; if there are fewer than 10 students in a particular group in a school, data is not reported for that group.

Why do the tests matter?

New Mexico test results provide an indication of whether students are making progress toward mastery of state content standards and to determine which schools are in need of improvement. Although test results alone are not used to determine grade-level promotion or retention in New Mexico, low scores on standardized tests are one indication that additional assistance may be needed. Test results are especially important for high school students, who must pass all sections of the NMHSCE in order to graduate. Students who do not pass the first time are given several opportunities to retake the NMHSCE before the end of grade 12.

It is important to be aware of both your child's score on the assessments and the overall scores for her school. If your child scores below the standards, contact the teacher to discuss getting additional assistance, and to find out how you can support your child's learning at home. If the school's overall scores are low, ask what steps the school is taking to raise achievement levels for all students, and what you as a parent can do to help. If your child is in a failing school, ask what your options are for transferring to a higher-performing school and for obtaining supplemental educational services.

A few parting words

Test results don't tell you everything about the quality of a particular school, although they can be an indicator of what's happening in the classroom. Always look at more than one measure when judging school performance and visit in person before making any final assessment.

Search for New Mexico Schools.

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