Santa Fe Public Schools’ graduation rate, which has steadily improved in recent years, has finally surpassed the state average.
The New Mexico Public Education Department on Tuesday released statewide graduation data for the Class of 2019, which shows 78.1 percent of students who were enrolled in public high schools in Santa Fe as freshmen in the fall of 2015 graduated within four years, compared with 74.9 percent statewide.
That’s a gain of 5 percentage points over the Class of 2018 in Santa Fe, and an even bigger improvement over the Class of 2015, which saw 67 percent of high school seniors graduate in four years. The state, in comparison, saw an increase of one percentage point between 2018 and 2019.
“This is a major turning point,” Superintendent Veronica García said in a news release on the district’s graduation gains. “Having a high school diploma is an economic game-changer, resulting in less unemployment and poverty and fewer health issues for students.”
Capital High School’s graduation rate was
78.1 percent in 2019, the data shows, and Santa Fe High’s was 76.7 percent.
Two other high schools in the district had much higher rates: the Mandela International Magnet School, which graduated its first class in 2019, had a rate of 88.1 percent, and the Academy for Technology and the Classics had a rate of 94.6 percent, an increase of 7 percentage points over 2018. The Academy at Larragoite had a graduation rate of 70.9 percent — a big jump from 38.1 percent in 2018.
Santa Fe High Principal Carl Marano, whose school has over 1,600 students compared to around 1,400 at Capital High, attributed much of the recent improvement to a mentorship program that pairs newcomers with seniors. “The dropout rate seems high amongst freshman and sophomores,” Marano said. “We pair any incoming freshmen or sophomores who might be facing some challenges with a senior who’s been around. A lot of times, students listen to other students more than the adults.”
This year, 100 freshmen and sophomores took part in the mentorship program.
Santa Fe High senior Ciara Walsh, a program mentor who is planning to attend the University of New Mexico in the fall, said she met at least twice a week with each of her two freshmen for one-on-one conversations about classes and campus life. “Santa Fe High is such a big school. There are lots of places you can get lost with what you’re doing,” Walsh said. “Having upperclassmen share what it takes to graduate really helps lost students focus on that goal of graduation.”
Meanwhile, New Mexico public schools continue to lag far behind the national four-year graduation rate, which was about 85 percent in 2017, the latest data available.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said in a news release they expect to see sharper statewide gains next year as increased investments in public schools begin to have an impact.
“While the fact that the graduation rate increased is undoubtedly a positive, we know we have significantly more to do to reach and surpass the national average of 85.3 percent,” Stewart said in a statement.
About 25,000 high school seniors graduate each year from the state’s 89 districts.
Data released Tuesday show girls graduated at a much higher rate than boys in 2019 — 78.8 percent compared to 71.1 percent.
The gap was even broader at some Santa Fe district schools — over 11 percentage points at Santa Fe High and nearly 13 points at Capital High. Mandela, which serves about 215 students, saw a gender gap of 24 percentage points, with 96.8 percent of girls graduating in four years, compared with 72.8 percent of boys.
The state saw some of its most significant gains in the graduation rates for English-language learners and Native Americans; 73.3 percent of English learners graduated within four years in 2019, an increase of 2.2 percent, and 69.6 percent of Native Americans graduated, a 3.8 percent improvement.