Feds: N.M.’s graduation rate among the lowest in the U.S.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – New Mexico has one of the worst four-year high school graduation rates in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reported that new federal numbers from 2010-11 preliminary data released this week showed New Mexico also falls at the bottom of the pack when analyzing rates across nearly every demographic.

Only Nevada, the District of Columbia and the Bureau of Indian Education rank below New Mexico on the percentage of all students graduating in four years. Nevada had the lowest graduation rate, with 62 percent graduation, just ahead of New Mexico’s 63 percent rate.

“It’s a compelling example of why we need to have a sense of urgency for our kids,” Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera said.

Though the rate is 4.3 percent lower than previous years, the Department of Education report cautioned such changes are not measures of progress or decline, but merely a more accurate view under the new system.

Twenty-six states reported lower graduation rates and 24 reported unchanged or higher rates, according to the department.

Iowa had the nation’s highest with about 88 percent of students graduating.

The 2010-11 academic year was the first time all states used uniform standards to measure the number of students who graduated.

Still, Skandera said, New Mexico was “fundamentally failing” its mission on educating all of its students.

Across the board, from low-income to Native American to black students, New Mexico always fell in the bottom quarter nationwide.

Even the demographic most likely to graduate in the state, Asian and Pacific Islanders at 78 percent, fell toward the bottom when compared with other states.

About 1 percent of New Mexican students are Asian or Pacific Islander.

White students were the second most likely to graduate in four years at 70 percent, numbers showed. They make up 26 percent of New Mexican students.

Black students, 2 percent of the student body, had a 60 percent graduation rate, according to the federal report.

Hispanic students, the majority of students at 59 percent, posted a 59 percent graduation rate, the report showed.

Native American and Alaskan Native students, who make up 10 percent of the New Mexican student body, had a 56 percent graduation rate.