New Legislation Hopes to Change New Mexico Drop-Out Rates

By: Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

They're starting high school but they never finish. 

More and more students are dropping out in New Mexico, including kids in our area.

Now a think tank has come up with a small way to solve this big problem.

"New Mexico has the highest dropout rate in the country," Kristina Fisher, Associate Director, Think New Mexico, said. "Only about 54% of our students that enter the 9th grade make it through to their senior year."

It's never been done at the state level, but Think New Mexico will soon present new legislation in the Spring limiting school size to less than 900.

"Kids get discouraged and they don't see the light at the end of the tunnel," Joe Loving, Assistant Superintendent of Hobbs Schools, said.

"We believe a significant factor is that so many of these students are in gigantic schools," Fisher said. "2/3 of New Mexico students are in schools larger than 1,000 students and 1/3 are in schools larger than 2,000 students."

Think New Mexico research says about 77 students drop out each day across the state, but that's not the case in Texas.

"Texas is actually significantly higher," Fisher said. "Texas is up at 68% of their entering students graduating, but in New Mexico, only 54% and some school districts it's even worse."

But they say, Eunice and Hobbs have some of the best rates. About 70 percent of entering Freshmen will walk away with a diploma.

"We have really liberal retention laws in New Mexico, so there really aren't any teeth in the truancy laws like there are in Texas," Fisher said. "So we just work really hard at keeping kids in school."

It's a soccer field now, but by 2011 it will be the new Freshman Academy. The Administration says it will reduce the size of the current Junior High and create a better learning environment for students.

"What we want to do is encourage schools to implement smaller learning communities and some cost effective ways to create smaller communities within these large schools," Fisher said.

"The greater attachment you have to your school, the greater your odds of staying in school," Loving said.