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NM graduation rate increase tops nation

a01_jd_06june_gradgraphicwebCopyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico’s high school graduation rate increased more than any other state’s between 2007 and 2012 – welcome news for a state that is often ranked at the bottom of education lists.

In 2012, 74 percent of New Mexico’s high school seniors graduated in four years, up 15 percentage points from 2007 when 59 percent graduated on time, according to an Education Week report released Thursday.

Still, that 74 percent graduation rate lagged behind most other states, ranking 44th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to the study.

Education Week’s method of calculating graduation rates was based on a survey from the National Center for Education Statistics. This differs from the state’s method, which tracks individual students. The state found that 70.4 percent of students graduated on time in 2012, although state data also showed an upward trend in the graduation rate in recent years. The state’s graduation rate for 2013 was 70.3 percent.

“We know that when students graduate from high school, their opportunities for success in life improve, as does the quality of the workforce in our state,” Gov. Susana Martinez said in a statement to the Journal. ” …But as we raise standards and put an emphasis on graduation, the response from our teachers and students should be commended. We must continue this progress.”

map templateThe report found the national graduation rate climbed by 7 percentage points, to 81 percent in 2012.

And while New Mexico was the state that had the most growth, the District of Columbia saw its graduation rate improve slightly more – up 16 percentage points over that span, from 55 percent to 71 percent, according to the report. Education Week is a national weekly publication.

Albuquerque Public Schools, which enrolls about a third of the students in the state, saw its four-year graduation rate improve from 46.2 percent in 2008 to 65.1 percent in 2012, according to state data.

State data from 2007 is not comparable to more recent figures because the state changed the way it collected graduation data in 2008.

But Education Week used survey data from the National Center for Education Statistics, so it was able to include the 2007 graduation rate.

In 2013, the state reported APS’ graduation rate was 68.7 percent. Under the district’s own calculation – which doesn’t count charter schools – APS’ graduation rate was 73.3 percent.

APS Superintendent Winston Brooks could not be reached for comment Thursday.

While the state has seen significant improvement in its graduation rates, slightly more than half of New Mexico’s high school graduates needed to take remedial coursework at state colleges or universities in 2012, a January Legislative Finance Committee report found.

And in other national reports, New Mexico has continued to fare poorly in recent years. For example, New Mexico’s fourth-grade reading scores tied with the District of Columbia for the nation’s lowest ranking in the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress. And its eighth-grade reading and fourth-grade math scores were third from the bottom.