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Superintendent's News

Posted: March 5, 2021

Positive Trajectory

In his weekly message to employees, Supt. Elder writes' about the district's improving graduation rates.

Del Norte Class of 2018 graduation ceremony

Del Norte Class of 2018 graduation ceremony

It wasn’t that long ago when only two-thirds of our high school seniors were earning their diplomas in four years.

That’s an unacceptable statistic, one the district was determined to improve.

And improve we did. For the past six years, the graduation rate has steadily increased, ticking up every year since 2015, when it was only 61.7 percent. Sometimes the yearly gains were pretty dramatic, like in 2016 when we saw the graduation rate grow by more than 4 percentage points. Sometimes the gains were incremental, like from 2018 to 2019, when the increase was less than a percentage point.  

But the trajectory remained upward, with more and more students earning their diploma each year.

And so it was for the Class of 2020, which we just learned had a graduation rate of nearly 75 percent, a gain of about 5 percentage points over the previous year, and maybe more importantly, 13 percentage points greater than it was just six years ago.

Now, three-fourths of our students are graduating with their peers. Even our youngest students who are just learning fractions know that’s a much bigger piece of the pie.

Graduation is the crowning achievement in public education. And you, my colleagues, are to thank for the growing number of students who depart our schools with that symbolic piece of paper that will open all kinds of doors for them.

And when I say you, I mean all of you who work for Albuquerque Public Schools. We all play a role in the success of our students, from the day they first walk into our preschool and kindergarten classrooms to the moment they move the tassel from left to right.

Among those who make sure our students stay on the path to graduation are our school counselors. It starts in elementary school, where counselors partner with nearby high schools for activities such as Graduation Walks. As a high school principal, I really enjoyed this tradition where soon-to-be graduates walk the halls of their neighborhood elementary schools in cap and gown. The younger students go wild, clapping, cheering, hooting, and wishing the seniors good luck. And the message is loud and clear: this is the goal for every single student.

At all levels, our schools provide career lessons, college exploration, goal setting, interest inventories. Students start at an early age to explore their likes and skills.

Even during remote learning, our schools host career fairs to get students excited about what types of jobs are available. Students learn what steps they need to take to enter their field of interest, which of course, includes graduating from high school.

At the high school level, educators meet with juniors and seniors individually several times a year to ensure they are on the path to graduate and have a plan for continued education and careers. Our schools provide attendance interventions, transcript reviews, class meetings, academic success guidance, and calls home. Families must be involved as we prepare students for success.

When the virus closed our schools in March of last year, just a couple of months before graduation, our schools shifted into high gear, doing everything they could to help seniors cross the finish line. Some say these kids got a pass because schools closed. Just the opposite is true. These students were robbed of many senior year traditions. We didn’t want them to be denied their diplomas as well.  

We’re working just as hard this year to make sure the Class of 2021 has the same opportunity. I’m excited to announce that we are planning in-person graduation ceremonies for our seniors along with other activities to celebrate such a significant milestone.

Our students deserve the spotlight when they graduate, but praise also needs to go to all of those who help them reach this achievement, which includes you. Thanks for all you do.