New Mexico Graduation Rates: Our Future is Hispanic

by Seth Saavedra │Wednesday, March 21st, 2018


This is the fifth in my series exploring graduation rates in New Mexico. Have topic suggestions? Shoot me a message or tweet.


Know Yourself

What does it mean to be "Hispanic" in these United States? In New Mexico? And what exactly is "Hispanic" and how do I know if I'm one?

I don't ask these questions to be rhetorical or cheeky. These have been, and are, the subconscious backdrop of my mind. As soon as I move past providing my name and address I know what's coming:

 

Source: U.S. Census Survey

 

Confusing me even further, I lived in California for a decade. Here I first became a Latino, then Latino/a, before being told I'm actually "Latinx". "Multi-racial" it is. I now embrace the ambiguity.

Fine, I'll be whatever you need me to be. Let me be your distorted reflection - the wavy image you recognize mostly for the parts that don't look like you. To my White friends, I'm definitely not White. To my Brown friends, not that Brown.

 
 

Now that I've moved back to New Mexico where nearly half of us identify as Hispanic, and even more of us, regardless of skin tone, have an "x" or "z" in our last name. A semantic genealogical party I'm excluded from.

 

Source: New Mexico's Indicator-Based Information System (NMBIS)

 

Keep the Family Close

With 61 percent of New Mexico's 337,485 public school students identified as Hispanic, they are our mean. As go our Hispanic students, as goes public education. Same with poor students, as 71 percent of students here qualify for free or reduced lunch.

 

2017 New Mexico's 4-Year Graduation Rates

 

The future well-being of The Land of Enchantment is quantitatively and intricately tied to the success of our Hispanic students.

Increasingly, this is the story of America too. With three times as many Hispanic students as teachers, both groups face headwinds. This reality remains: we can't make progress as a state without students that look like me doing better. 

 

Hispanic American Growth Abounds

Source: Pew Research Center

 

My Old Flex Is My New Flex Now

We know graduation rates are in imperfect proxy for student achievement. There are schools with 85 percent graduation rates yet have less than 5 percent of students on level for math - and less than 15 percent for reading.

Even so, graduation rates are a helpful measure in understanding how schools are serving their students. Diplomas still mean something as a signal to the employment market. For now. Let's see how our Hispanic students do in graduating high school.


First, Interact

As usual, I ask that you explore the data yourself. Below is a bar chart that includes every public high school with graduation data in New Mexico. Find the high school you went to. Look up the school your student, nephew, grandchild, or sibling goes to. Or the one your future child might attend. Don't be shy.


Chronic Underperformers

We have no fewer than 57 high schools with Hispanic graduation rates 10 points or more below the statewide average of 70.5 percent. In fact, we have 33 high schools that are 20 points or more under that average. This is injustice before our eyes. This is institutional racism in action.

 
 

Gadsden, Las Cruces, and Truth or Consequences Stand Out. Again.

With all their Hispanic students beating the statewide graduation average, these districts down south are getting impressive results. This should be no surprise as I've written about all three previously. My observation is that strong leadership plus a commitment to excellence for all students are shared traits.

 
 

Look What You've Done

Strictly by the current numbers of Hispanic students - much less their anticipated growth - our future is Brown. We as a state and country cannot improve educational outcomes without better reaching Hispanic students.

This will require more Hispanic teachers, high-quality dual language programs, culturally relevant curriculum, and higher expectations in and of Hispanic communities. We know it's possible and, given Mexican food's triumph over American cuisine, there is latent craving for our culture and people.



[10/19] For Our Future: This Week's Education News & More

Friends & Colleagues -

This week's roundup is heavy with local news and research, including the recent release of a school financing report from Think New Mexico. As always, your feedback is welcomed, as are social media and other sharing. Here's this week's roundup:

  • [LOCAL: RESEARCH] Think New Mexico Issues Report On Education Finance. As they do so well, the wonks at Think New Mexico have aimed their research acumen at the Gordian Knot that is education spending in New Mexico. While I anxiously await the arrival of my copy, here are some highlights from TNM's website: "Statewide, only about 57.2% of New Mexico’s education budget is currently dedicated to instruction.  [And] since about 90% of New Mexico’s operational education budget consists of state taxpayer dollars, the legislature and governor have the responsibility to ensure that the money is spent as effectively as possible." Here's additional coverage from the Albuquerque Journal and Santa Fe New Mexican.
     
  • [LOCAL: NEWS] New Mexico's Plan Highlighted in Congressional Testimony. Two weeks ago, three chief state school officers provided testimony to the HELP Committee in D.C. during their "The Every Student Succeeds Act: Unleashing State Innovation" committee hearing. New Mexico's Secretary-Designate Christopher Ruszkowski spoke on behalf of NMPED. As you've read on this blog, New Mexico's ESSA plan continues to be lauded as one of the best in the country. In fact, when ranking member Patty Murray asked Dr. Steiner, "... based on your understanding of other states plans, would you say other state's have put forward plans that are as strong as these three?" Dr. Steiner's response was "The chairman was correct in highlighting these three states. They are here, rightly because they are exemplary." FYI: New Mexico's portion starts at the 40 minute mark.
     
  • [LOCAL: NEWS] NMPED To Rewrite Proposed Science Standards. In what should have been the approach from the start, NMPED will revise its original proposal for updated science standards that had omitted key statements related to evolution, climate change, and Earth's age. Thanks to the advocacy of educators, religious leaders, scientists, parents and many others - including a protest and "teach in" - enough public pressure was drummed up to correct what had become a painful misstep for the state. For me this has been a tangible reminder of the power of advocacy on behalf of our students, and also of the necessity and possibility for broad, citizen-led coalitions to demand student-centered education policies. Ultimately, what's most important here is that New Mexico adopts modern science standards which prepare our kids for science careers, particularly as the home to two large national laboratories.
     
  • [NATIONAL: OPINION] 10 Disruptions That Will Revolutionize Education. Nobody has a crystal ball, but everyone can see that the world is changing at warp speed. Through his research of blended learning and equity in education, Peter Cookson has heard many educators say that it's time to seize the future. Among his suggestions is one that would be powerful here in New Mexico: Students and families will become co-learners and co-creators wherein "participatory education means little if students and families are pushed to the side. Families will no longer be shut out of the learning process. They will be seen as full partners in their children's education."
Latinos Lag Behind For College

As a state with preponderance of Hispanics/Latinos (discussion of the distinction is for another day), the continued college gaps depicted to the left have important implications for our students and the future of our state. What are our policy makers doing to ensure we, as a majority minority state, are reversing these trends?