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NM’s schools for deaf and visually impaired provide little online data

By   /   September 10, 2013  /   News  /   2 Comments

NUMBERS, PLEASE: There is very little student data available online from the NM School for the Deaf or the NM School for the Blind and Visually Impaired but officials at both schools say they will fix that.

NUMBERS, PLEASE: There is very little student data available online from the NM School for the Deaf or the NM School for the Blind and Visually Impaired but officials at both schools say they will fix that.

By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog

SANTA FE – If you want to know how your local high school is doing on things like enrollment, test scores and graduation rates, you can find the data in seconds on the Public Education Department website.

But if you want to find out how two of the state’s three land grant schools are doing on such metrics, you’ll have a much harder time.

In fact, a New Mexico Watchdog investigation could find precious little student data online from the New Mexico School for the Deaf and the New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

The third school funded with land grant dollars, the New Mexico Military Institute, offers a large amount of student statistics on its website, including test score results, but other measures such as enrollment and retention numbers were not found.

Since they were founded as land grant schools before New Mexico even became the nation’s 47th state, the three schools are not directly under the Public Education Department’s umbrella. Yet all three receive millions in state funding.

The military institute, for example, received more than $23 million this past year from the state’s maintenance and permanent funds, distributed by the State Land Office. The NMSD and NMSBVI each received more than $11.6 million.

The schools for the deaf and the visually impaired are technically listed as part of the state’s Higher Education Department, but essentially operate on their own, with separate boards of regents providing oversight.

The military institute, which includes junior college students as well as high school students, is a member of the Higher Education Department, but also has its own board of regents.

“We are currently working on how to show our test scores, to be more transparent with the growth of our students and how they’re progressing” said NMSD middle and high school principal Terry Wilding, through a sign language interpreter, to New Mexico Watchdog.

Two accreditation firms “recommended we do a better job of showing our data,” Wilding said. A new NMSD website is in the works, although Wilding did not have a time frame for its launch.

“The data is not on the website, no,” said NMSBVI Superintendent Linda Lyle. “Our families know how things are going. We’re forthcoming with our families … I consider the School for the Blind to be absolutely transparent.”

“We are very transparent about what we do,” NMMI Superintendent Gen. Jerry Grizzle told New Mexico Watchdog in a telephone interview. “But I am given that money (from the Land Office) to run this school. It doesn’t say that I will achieve certain enrollment or retention standards. It never has.”

It should be stressed that New Mexico Watchdog requests for data concerning enrollment and retention rates were supplied in a timely manner by all three schools.

But while unlike the straight-forward, easy-to-access webpage found on the PED website (click here, for example, to see finance numbers), the sites for the schools for the deaf and visually impaired don’t offer a similar mechanism and practically no student data to peruse.

“You’re the first person who’s ever asked about that,” said NMSBVI’s Lyle. “And there’s no reason we can’t do that. I will make that happen.”

Apples and oranges

In Watchdog’s interviews with officials, they emphasized their institutions are different than other public schools in the state, and said comparisons are unfair.

“We measure the whole child,” Wilding said. “The key is how to find test results that are unique to us.”

Compared to the enrollment at PED schools, student numbers for the land grand schools are very small: just 132 for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade at NMSD’s main Santa Fe campus and 60 students receiving services on the residential campus at NMSBVI. The military institute, which includes a two-year junior college, has 946 this school year.

“I think all three of us (land grand schools) are very willing to be forthcoming, but it’s just difficult to report things or even for people to ask for things that are meaningful when you’re comparing it to a district that has thousands of kiddos,” Lyle said.

True, it may not be fair to compare the test scores, for example, from the School for the Deaf with Santa Fe High, but it could be helpful to compare the three schools’ data with their own numbers over a period of time. That way, a comparison can be made within the school itself.

“That makes sense to me as well,” Wilding said.

Numbers obtained by New Mexico Watchdog show that at the School for the Deaf, 12th-grade graduation numbers have dropped. After posting graduation rates consistently in the 70-90 percent range, graduation rates fell to the 50 percent range in the two most recent school years.

Why? Because the school adopted a new program two years ago to have some students stay in the high school program more than four years, Wilding said.

“We’ve changed our approach in terms of providing job training, more classes and experience in high school while they’re still here,” Wilding said. “Which is why you see more and more students who are seniors who may repeat that year for two or three years until we feel like, and they and their families feel like, they are ready to go to a transition program, whatever that may be. Maybe it’s in the job force, maybe it’s college. maybe it’s a job training program.”

Earlier this month, the state’s Public Education Department was rated first among all 50 state education departments for making spending data available to the public on their websites.

The Cato Institute study singled out the PED website: “Very easy for a layperson to locate the desired data,” the report said. “All relevant data are in close proximity with a main menu that is clear and commonsensical.”

Perhaps the three land grant schools can use the PED website as a model going forward.

“There’s no reason every member of the public that wanted the information can’t have it,” Lyle said. “That’s easily rectified.”

Click here to look at the data NMSBVI supplied New Mexico Watchdog.

Click here for the numbers supplied by NMSD.

And click here for the responses from NMMI.

Contact Rob Nikolewski at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski

Click here to LEARN HOW TO STEAL OUR STUFF!

Rob formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • Advocate

    I can tell you that schools for the Deaf are mostly not transparent about how they are doing. Those that are show results that mostly indicate students performing well below the standard- Our state was 60-80% in the well below range. Granted some students receive their best possible education in these settings. However families are often targeted to send their child to a special school without full information. Most children with hearing loss today, given early identification, state of the art hearing aids or cochlear implants, and early intervention targeted to the type of language development (spoken and/or signed) that the parents are best able to support, can attend their local school with minimal support perhaps from an itinerant specialist in hearing loss/ deafness, speech and language support, and other listening or visual support technologies. Time to give more money to support building local capacity to serve more of these children in integrated settings. Keep the schools for the Deaf in a downsized form as they are needed for some with no access ability or desire through the auditory channel and the need for signing Deaf adults. Just recognize that classification does not equal placement, and all these equal, parents have a right to know BEFORE they enroll, not after.

  • Emily Pfeffa

    The deaf schools in most states, including New Mexico and Arizona, need to audit their schools for performance, and identify factors, such as teacher/staff qualifications that are holding back student performance. Many teachers within deaf schools are themselves deaf, and are unable to read, write, or even reason much beyond the 3rd, 4th or 5th grade level. How can a student rise to the level of even regular public education when their own teachers are not even at that level themselves? These schools should have a defined mission (goal) that prepares students to become productive members of American society, not merely “Deaf” society. Their curriculums should align with, and conform to state and national K12 standards (e.g., Core Standards) for public education. Deaf schools have over the past 30 to 40 years have become transformed into “cultural centers,” that have led to inordinate focus upon espousing “Deaf” culture and fostering “American Sign Language” (ASL) as a cultural norm, even a “right,” while downplaying the importance of teaching of the English language within the schools. The Public should find this UNACCEPTABLE because these students will become part of our society, and will need to be able to compete. However, with the present emphasis on “social” interaction between deaf schools through sports and “Deaf” cultural events, students are unable to spend sufficient time within the classroom to achieve satisfactory levels of education. HS students at the Arizona School for the deaf were out of the classroom traveling for sports and other activities over 100 days of the school year. The Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) testing that gauges all public schools in the state places the Arizona School for the Deaf and the Phoenix Day School for the Deaf third and second from the very bottom respectively among all schools in the entire state. Dwell on that.