Las Cruces – An increase in the Las Cruces Public Schools graduation rate that puts the school district above the statewide average is "statistically huge," said LCPS Superintendent Stan Rounds. "I am delighted. This is a very relevant increase and shows that our efforts to increase graduation rates and reduce the dropout rate are paying off."
Statewide four-year cohort graduation rates were announced today (June 8) by the New Mexico Public Education Department. The statistics show LCPS with a 2010 graduation rate of 71.2 percent, compared to 64.9 percent in 2009 and 54 percent in 2008. The statewide graduation rate for 2010 was 67.3 percent.
Also showing marked improvement compared to the previous year are the LCPS graduation rates for economically disadvantaged students (52.7% up to 62.1%), students with disabilities (66.2% up to 71.1%) and those who are English language learners (51.5% up to 65%).
Tracie O'Hara, director of LCPS accountability, assessment and research, said a cohort represents a group of students who were tracked each year from the time they were ninth-graders, in this case in 2006/07, to the time they were expected to graduate by August 1, 2010.
"Cohort information for determining graduation rates is extremely important data for our district," said O'Hara. "This data shows that students starting in ninth-grade are finishing and the programs that we have in place are working."
Rounds said the increases in the cohort graduation rates are due to a number of factors. In particular, he credited the district's 90 percent attendance policy, enacted two years ago by the LCPS Board of Education. It mandates that students attend each one of their classes at least 90 percent of the time in order to receive credit.
"As our daily attendance rates go up, we are seeing a corresponding increase in the graduation rate," said Rounds.
Rounds also credited teachers across the school district for "giving attention to students and their individual needs and for providing high quality instruction in the classroom. I believe we have the most committed and dedicated employees of any school district in the nation, and these numbers bear that out," he added.
Rounds said Arrowhead Park Early College High School (APECHS), which opened to 116 students in July 2010, is another innovative way to keep students engaged in their education so that they graduate within four years.
"Four APECHS students moved away but continued their education in other school districts not one of the 112 remaining students dropped out," said Rounds. "If that school had followed the statewide average, we would have lost more than 30 students. Instead, all 112 of these ninth graders will return for their sophomore year. And, 111 of them had 90 percent or better attendance during the school year."
Rounds said he is very hopeful that the graduation rate will continue to increase. LCPS' Centennial High School, which will open in the fall of 2012, should help lead "a second wave of even better graduation numbers. Because of the layout of the new school, ninth-graders - where we lose the most students - will be housed in their own academic building on campus, allowing them to integrate into the high school environment without being overwhelmed by it," Rounds said.
"We still have some areas of distress that we are working very hard to address. But, these numbers show that we are clearly moving in the right direction," Rounds said.