Farmington schools dispute grad rate report

National report says Farmington has the seventh-lowest high school graduation rate in the country

Joshua Kellogg

FARMINGTON — Administrators for Farmington schools are questioning the methodology of a report released this week stating that the city of Farmington had one of the lowest high school graduation rates in the country.

Emily Bliss and Kyle Gonzales enter Ricketts Park May 19 for their high school graduation ceremony in Farmington. The city had the seventh-lowest graduation rate in the country for 2013, according to a new study.

According to the website 24/7 Wall Street, Farmington has the seventh-lowest graduation rate in the nation at 67.7 percent. The report listed the 10 cities with the highest and lowest graduation rates nationwide for the 2012-2013 school year.

Santa Fe was listed as the city with fourth-lowest graduation rate nationwide at 63.2 percent. Albany, N.Y., was the city with the lowest graduation rate nationwide at 51.3 percent.

The report used data from the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps program, operated in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, according to a press release.

Gene Schmidt, superintendent for the Farmington Municipal School District, said he wondered what kind of metrics were used that led Farmington to be included in the report. He said it is difficult to compare graduation rates nationwide or state to state because each state has a different set of criteria that is required for seniors to graduate. He added the district has been steadily improving its district graduation rate since 2013.

“What I do know is we’re never happy with the graduation rate,” Schmidt said. “We want graduation rates to be high.”

The rates used in the report were for the graduating class of 2013 for students who graduated in four years.

Other information included in the report included May's unemployment rate for the city (8.4 percent), the median income for a person who dropped out of college ($17,133) and the percentage of adults with a college degree living in the city (9 percent).

Assistant Superintendent Phil Valdez said he didn’t know how cities were selected for the report, as the Farmington school district had the 19th-lowest graduation rate out of 91 districts in the state in 2013, according to data from the New Mexico Public Education Department.

The House Municipal School District had the lowest graduation rate in the state with 41.5 percent in 2013, according to data from the state education department. The Des Moines Municipal Schools district had the best rate at better than 98 percent.

The statewide graduation rate in 2013 was 70 percent, and the national rate was 81 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics.

In Farmington, the graduation rate for Farmington High School was 64.6 percent for 2013. The rate for Piedra Vista High School was 78.9 percent, and Rocinante High School had a 64.2 percent rate.

The districtwide graduation rate in 2014 was 69.6 percent and increased to 71.7 percent in 2015.

Improving the district’s graduation rate is listed as one of the goals in a strategic plan currently being developed..

In a draft of the plan dated June 27, the district hopes to improve its graduation rate to 75 percent and increase the number of students which are college or career ready within three years.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.