The news was grim last week during a forum conducted by the Farmington Inter-Tribal Indian Organization on the topic of American Indian education.
The New Mexico Public Education Department says that more than half of the American Indian students in Farmington Municipal Schools do not graduate from high school. In addition, American Indian students in every grade level in Farmington do not meet the 2009 annual yearly progress goals for math or reading.
This is unacceptable.
When half of an ethnic group in an area does not graduate high school, the matter accelerates past the realm of statistical notability and becomes an educational emergency. We don't know where the failure is, but the failure is real and tangible. American Indian students in Farmington are not achieving the education goals they need to succeed in life.
San Juan College was mentioned at the meeting as well. American Indian students make up 26 percent of the students at the college, a healthy amount, but are under-represented in health care fields. The situation at the college is less urgent, and we appreciate efforts the college has taken to rectify the imbalance.
Lawmakers in Santa Fe and Washington have been silent on the topic of education as of late. We understand that their attention is held by some fairly weighty issues, but maybe this will be a wakeup call for them. It's been eight years now since the No Child Left Behind law was passed, and while it has had some success with other minority groups, it clearly is not working for American Indians.
Perhaps it is time again for an evaluation of the act to see if it still meets our national education needs.
But the likelihood of this happening is low. It is more practical to assume that no one will solve local problems but locals.
The Farmington Municipal Schools understands the gravity of these numbers and already has undertaken steps to change them. We also encourage members of the community, particularly parents of American Indian students, to get involved and help turn this trend around.
Institutional change does not happen overnight, but we understand that if efforts are successful, these numbers will improve.
The first step is acknowledging the problem, and that is so done. Now it's time to give it more focus.