Study ranks New Mexico third in school safety - Albuquerque Journal

Study ranks New Mexico third in school safety

This story has been corrected to adjust N.M.’s system quality rank.

New Mexico has again fared poorly in a national ranking of the country’s best and worst school systems, but did rank as one of the top states for school safety.

The WalletHub study released Tuesday gave New Mexico a school-system quality rank of 44 and a safety rank of 3, out of all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

The study offers three main numbers for each state: the state’s overall rank, its school-system quality rank and its safety rank. New Mexico’s school-system quality rank was lowest of the three.

But according to Robert McEntyre, spokesman for New Mexico’s Public Education Department, the state is improving in its school-system quality.

McEntyre referenced WalletHub’s 2014 report, which ranked the New Mexico school-system quality at 46.

“We climbed up four spots,” he said about placing 42nd this year. “That’s a testament to the progress we’ve been making.”

The school-system quality ranking compares the quality of education in 10 key categories, including pupil-teacher ratio, dropout rates, and test scores.

One of New Mexico’s worst scores was its dropout ranking, at 48 out of 51.

McEntyre says that patterns and behaviors linked to dropping out can be detected early, and the goal is to stop them at an early stage.

“What we’ve done, this year actually, is decided to start a program where we give grants to schools to fund social workers and dropout prevention coaches,” he said, adding that $1.3 million has been set aside to provide social workers in middle schools and $2.5 million is allocated for dropout prevention coaches in middle schools and high schools.

“We also have the third-fastest-growing graduation rate,” he said, referencing a report by Education Week, a national puplication covering K-12 education. “We are obviously climbing to get kids across the finish line, but there is some work that needs to be done to further prevent kids from dropping out.”

New Mexico placed better in the school safety category, which ranks schools in three categories: bullying incidents, youth incarceration, and percentage of students who report being threatened or injured on school property. The state had a low youth incarceration rank of 20 and a bullying-incidents rank of 2.

“I think it might be a surprise to people who only read the school system rankings for New Mexico every year and don’t pay attention to the safety rankings,” said WalletHub spokeswoman Jill Gonzales. “Since New Mexico had one of the highest dropout rates, people are quick to point their fingers to safety in schools, but I think that’s definitely one thing that you can rule out” of the conversation about dropout rates.

In the best and worst school systems study, Colorado had the highest school-system quality rank, Massachusetts had the second-highest, and North Dakota placed third. The lowest-ranking school systems were in Washington, D.C., Nevada and Alaska.

WalletHub was launched in 2012 as a company offering tools and information for people to make financial decisions and save money. It promises “expert insights” to its users, according to its website. In WalletHub’s 2015 Safest States to Live In study, New Mexico was ranked 13th, and Albuquerque ranked 10th on the company’s list of 80 Best and Worst Cities for Summer Travel.

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