New Mexico’s high school graduation rate reached a record high in 2016 but was still second-worst in the nation, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Education.
Seventy-one percent of New Mexico students earned a cap and gown in 2016, just ahead of Washington, D.C., at 69 percent.
Nationally, the 2016 graduation rate hit a record 84 percent, and top-performing states Iowa and New Jersey surpassed 90 percent.
The federal report does not present data for individual districts, but the New Mexico Public Education Department reported that Albuquerque Public Schools’ 2016 graduation rate was 66 percent, up 4 percentage points from 2015.
“New Mexico’s graduation rate has reached record levels under this administration because we have raised standards to help ensure our students are prepared for life after high school,” said New Mexico Public Education Department spokeswoman Lida Alikhani in a statement. “But it’s clear there is still work to be done before we realize the goal of ensuring every student graduates high school ready for the next stage in their life.”
Overall, New Mexico’s high school graduation rate has grown steadily over the past few years, rising 8 percentage points since 2011. Nationally, the graduation rate rose by 4 percentage points during that time.
Across the country, every minority group posted gains from 2015 to 2016, though the achievement gap still persists:
• Low-income students : 67 percent graduated statewide, 78 percent nationwide.
• Students with disabilities : 62 percent graduated statewide, 66 percent nationwide.
• Hispanic students : 71 percent graduated statewide, 79 percent nationwide.
• English-language learners : 67 percent graduated statewide, 67 percent nationwide.
• Native American students : 63 percent graduated statewide, 72 percent nationwide.
• Black students : 61 percent graduated statewide, 76 percent nationwide.
In APS, English-language learners improved the most of any group, rising 8 percentage points to 61 percent. Hispanic students jumped 6 percentage points to 66 percent.
When asked for comment, APS re-sent a statement from January, when PED released the state’s 2016 graduation numbers.
“The hard work and dedication of our students and staff are paying off,” Superintendent Raquel Reedy said in an email. “It feels like we’ve caught a wave of momentum in our schools and community, and while we’re not anywhere near where we want to be, we’re moving in the right direction.”
Jennifer DePaoli, co-author of the national graduation report “Building a Grad Nation,” said she is encouraged by the upward trajectory, particularly among underserved groups.
DePaoli also noted that she is researching ways to help high schools that have low graduation rates, which are more common in New Mexico than in any other state. Forty-four percent of the New Mexico high schools had a graduation rate below 67 percent in 2015, according to “Building a Grad Nation,” a report from Civic Enterprises, a D.C.-based social enterprise firm, and the Everyone Graduates Center at the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University.
On Tuesday, New Mexico PED Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski announced that 52 New Mexico high schools had been targeted for extra support because they did not meet the 67 percent threshold for two of the past three years.
Ruszkowski stressed that the state has a responsibility to ensure that all students have access to a high-quality education.