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Editorial: Changes mean every grad ready for their own path

In New Mexico this year, the 89 public school districts were able to offer more than 89 ways to meet graduation requirements, begging the question how could one student be sure he or she was as ready for the next step in life as other students?

They couldn’t.

That’s because under the current rule, students who do not achieve at least a “3” on the PARCC English or math tests or passing scores on the SBA science or social studies end-of-course exams can simply present something as random as a letter saying they have been accepted to a community college or university program that has no admission requirements – they don’t even have to have enrolled.

And showing you can get into a program that has no requirements does not show you have met any requirements to graduate high school.

But under PED’s changes in an alternative measures to graduate, students in the class of 2022 will not only be assured they can read and do math at levels for life after high school, they will be able to use their vocational interests and training to supplement their test scores.

Starting with the class of 2020, N.M.’s high school students already will have to achieve a score of “4” or “5” on the eleventh-grade PARCC English Language Arts and math tests, as well as commensurate scores in science and social studies. That’s the preferred option to show readiness for graduation, and students who score below the cut score will be given a chance to re-take the tests.

For those in the class of 2022 and beyond who don’t achieve the cut score, there will be alternatives that both ensure they will be able to read, write and do math well enough to move on, but also make sure they have a foundation in a course of study or real plan for vocational or other training.

For example, a student in the class of 2022 could supplement their “3” on their first attempt at the eleventh-grade English Language PARCC with an acceptable score on another assessment, including the ACT or International Baccalaureate exam. They also will have a variety of options to show they are ready for the world beyond high school, and depending on their PARCC score would have to do one or two of numerous alternatives. Those include showing they have put together a course of study in high school – say in cybersecurity or accounting or computer science. They could complete an internship for credit. They could pass a dual-credit course. They could show they have been accepted into an accredited apprenticeship program – say the electrical or plumbing fields. They could show an offer letter from a branch of the military. They could put together a portfolio to meet the writing, science or social studies standards. Or they could show they have been accepted into an institution of higher learning that has competitive entrance requirements and complete the financial aid paperwork.

And so while New Mexico Public Education Department Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski is right, “a diploma should mean the same thing across New Mexico,” he is also right to make PED walk the one-size-does-not-fit-all talk, building in options for graduation for the student population that has no interest in college but great interest in pursuing a skilled trade or vocation.

Yes, under the proposed changes a high school diploma will mean something a bit different for some students, but at its core it will mean every single graduate is ready for either college or careers. And every single one of them deserves to be secure in that knowledge.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.