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High school graduation steady, assessment styles changing

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CREATIVE COMMONS

New Mexico's high school graduation rate stayed steady last year, at about 77%, despite the difficulties of studying and teaching in a pandemic.

Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus led an online news conference in which he praised educators and school support staff for their hard work in transferring to remote learning and helping students through the difficult years

"This is really great news," he said. "I'm very excited about it. Because we beat what the experts were saying. There are experts around the country who were predicting great decreases in graduation rates because of the pandemic."

By national standards, New Mexico's high school graduation rate is low, but it has improved in the last decade, with the biggest improvements among Native American and Hispanic Students, according to the nationwide survey the Kids Count Data Book.

In the last two years, the way students are assessed has also changed. The 2020 graduating cohort could for the first time choose from options aside from testing, like assembling a portfolio, to demonstrate they were competent to graduate high school.

And some schools are experimenting with an initiative called Graduation Equity, an effort to address inequality in the state education system by taking a project-based approach to qualifying for high school graduation.

"The nature of how that change has impacted graduation rates is not entirely clear just yet," said Matthew Goodlaw, Director of Research, Evaluation, and Accountability at the Public Education Department, when asked about the new methods of assessment. "We are doing a lot of root cause analysis and deeper dives into this data."