PED says statewide rate at an all-time high

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FARMINGTON — The New Mexico Public Education Department released statewide graduation rates for the class of 2017 last week, and data shows that Four Corners schools are falling behind the state rate.

The state graduation rate was 71.1 percent and reflects a trend in which the “graduation rate remains at an all-time high” for the second consecutive year “as New Mexico has continued to raise the bar for academic proficiency,” according to a Feb. 23 press release from PED.

However, Four Corners school district rates have fallen behind the state rate by as much as 8 percentage points this year.

The Aztec Municipal School District had the highest regional rate at 68 percent. The Farmington and Bloomfield school districts came in at 66.2 percent and 65.6 percent, respectively, and the Central Consolidated School District had the lowest regional rate at 63.1 percent, according to PED data.

The Farmington Municipal School District had the largest rate change between the classes of 2016 and 2017, with a 4.8 percent decrease, a result that surprised the district, Superintendent Eugene Schmidt said in a Feb. 26 statement.

The district will study the impact of what it characterized in the statement as “an increasingly mobile population” on graduation rates,noting that less than one-third of high school students in Farmington have “been with the district for the extent of their K-12 education.”

A Farmington school — Piedra Vista High School — had the highest graduation rate in the county at 75.1 percent, according to PED data.

The Bloomfield School District also saw a decrease in its graduation rate between 2016 and 2017. The rate fell 3.4 percent, but Bloomfield High School matched the state average rate this year, according to PED data.

Principal Chad Burkholder said districts throughout the county have been affected by student mobility as families have moved in or out of the county during the oil and gas industry slump over the past few years. Districts must report where students transfer to or PED counts the transferred student as a dropout. Burkholder said that task is often difficult and can affect graduation rates.

Aztec and CCSD both saw little change — less than 0.1 percent — in their graduation rate between 2016 and 2017, according to PED data.

CCSD spokeswoman Renee Lucero said the district is also affected by student mobility and that graduation rates “are one piece to a very large and complex puzzle,” noting that the graduation rates for students who finish a year or two behind their class “increase tremendously” in all CCSD high schools.

“We know the more students move schools, the more likely they are to fall behind and slip through the cracks of education systems,” Lucero said in an email, adding that initiatives like the new Bond Wilson Technical Center show the district’s commitment “to providing students every opportunity possible within the district.”

Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-546-4621 or mpetersen@daily-times.com.

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