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Grad Rates on the Rise

Posted: May 5, 2022

Del Norte High School, On the Rise

The graduation rate for the Class of 2021 increased by 12 percentage points to 68.7%.


[ Albuquerque Public Schools Graduation ]

[ APS celebrates an 80.3% graduation rate for the Class of 2021. ]

[ The APS graduation rate has improved for six consecutive years to 80.3%. ]

[ 80.3 percent ]

[ Ten of the district's comprehensive high schools saw improved graduation rates in 2021, as did four of its six magnet schools. ]

[ 80.3 percent ]

[ Del Norte High School graduation rate is 68.7%. That is an increase of 12%. ]

[ How was this accomplished? ]

- (Ed Bortot, Principal:) I'm gonna use a quote that my counselor always says if everybody carries water, right, then we're all carrying the weight together. And it's teamwork, we're all in this together. It's not about the admin versus teachers or anything here in Del Norte. We have issues like any other school but we work through them. We always think win-win. We work through solutions, we want to be problem solvers. And you have to be because Del Norte is a 98% free reduced lunch population.

So what that is, a 98% free reduced population, we have to be different. We have to think outside the box we can't do business as usual. We can't just come in here and you know, Hey we're gonna sit down and teach, we have to do things like an emphasis school wide. We do restorative practice here.

[ At DNHS, what works for students? ]

- (Ed:) I am going to continue to re- uh, uh – re-make school alive for our students. Another thing would be too is the multiple electives that we have. We have the biggest eSports team and it's in the master schedule. I bet you, nobody in APS has a skateboarding class, we do. And you can go out there in the afternoons, they make the ramps with the woods. They have ramps out there and they tear it up. So, we have certain electives like AVID, or yearbook and things like that too, as well, but we have Educators Rising for teacher cadets, so when you make electives that are appealing to students, students come to school and they like those electives which trickles down into their course.

[ What about the basics? ]

- (Ed:) You have counselors right now that care about kids. Not only do they do those transcript reviews, but they bring those kids in and conference with them and tell them, here's where you're at, here's what you need, here's what we need to do. And they stear them in the right direction to make sure that they earn those credits and get those credits.

[ How important is communication? ]

- (Ed:) I got parents that get mad at me because I send everything out School Messenger, they hear my voice all the time, "Hello Del Norte Community". I have a social media presence, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. Things go out all the time. And so I make sure that all those things get out, information gets out. Plus, when we get to the senior moments there are a lot of letters that go out the counselors are calling our seniors, letting them know they're in danger of failing. Teachers are actually calling home. So they're getting multiple contacts.

[ Dedicated staff. Transcript review. Credit recovery. Personal attention. ]
[ And cool electives! A 12% increase! How can you keep this momentum going? ]

- (Ed:) Well, we're gonna enjoy the celebration, right? It's a victory. It's not where we wanna be. Right? We can do better, and we know that and we will continue to do better and we will continue to strive to do what we need to do. But I did tell my staff and I sent out a whole wide staff email saying, I want to thank all of you guys because it takes a team unity, togetherness – to come together like this to make sure that everybody is pulling their weight.

[ Any advice to future graduates? Senior Perspectives ]

- (Casey Mariscal, Senior:) Come to Del Norte. Honestly, this is one of the best schools ever. I couldn't imagine it any other way. Join as many clubs as you can – Student council, Ed Rising, Spanish National, anything. Just join it. The teachers here are great as well.

- (Gabriel Jiminez, Senior:) The biggest way to succeed is to get out of your comfort zone. Try and find more people. Try to find, if you need help with class tutoring, you can find a lot of people that'll help you in small ways or big ways.

[ Congratulations to Del Norte High School and all graduating seniors! ]

- (Ed:) And it's about a belief system. It's about telling our kids we, number one, we believe in you, we know you can do this and, above all else we give them the belief system for them to believe in themselves

- (Gabriel:) Go Knights, let's go.

Learn More from Del Norte's Principal & Students 

“Our graduation rate was 56 percent when I arrived at Del Norte in 2019,” says Principal Edward Bortot. “The goal was to increase the rate by 3 percent a year, but we’re already at 12 percent. And an increase over three to five years is sustainable change.”

Principal Bortot achieved this boost with multiple initiatives, including emphasizing collaboration between teachers and administration, having a team of counselors staying on top of student records, helping students catch up through recovery programs, and actively building relationships with students.

Building Relationships

“It’s about connecting with students,” Bortot says. “It’s about creating positive relationships and knowing you’re not just a number on this campus—we know you.”

Building relationships with students revealed issues outside of school that were inhibiting their ability to learn, which ranged from food insecurity to transportation shortfalls to health issues.

“We’re a community school,” says Bortot, “so what we do here is we have to look at the barriers that impact or impede our students. If you get to the root cause and we take care of the issue, now we’re getting that obstacle out of the way, and the student can succeed.”

Teacher and Staff Support

Gabriel Jimenez is a graduating senior who acknowledged the support he received from teachers and other staff and how that helped him get good grades and stay on track. He has some advice for incoming freshmen: “If you want to succeed academically, you can always talk to teachers, and they find ways they can help you.”

Jimenez, who admits he struggled with shyness as a freshman, has some advice on succeeding socially. “The biggest way to succeed is to get out of your comfort zone,” he says. “I started esports in my sophomore year, and it helped me find a community of people, and it’s helped me branch out, and now I have a bunch of friends varying from all the grade levels, so it’s helped me build a bigger bond with people and be more of a people person.”

Senior Casey Mariscal agrees: “Join as many clubs as you can. I wish I knew that my freshman year. I think clubs really helped me.” Mariscal is another graduating senior who has felt the support of Del Norte’s teachers and administration through academic assistance, challenging her, and reassurance.

Advice for Students

When asked if she had any advice for incoming freshmen, Mariscal had this to say: “Take AP and Honors classes. I know it’s like the scariest thing ever, and it seems like it’s going to be the hardest time in your life, but the teachers are always there for you. Plus, it’s a GPA booster, and it’s easier than you think—I promise.”

“It’s about telling our kids we believe in you, we know you can do this,” Bortot says. “We give them the belief system to believe in themselves.” That kind of support and encouragement, coupled with resources like an on-site food bank, health clinics, and creating classes students enjoy, are all a part of the plan to keep the graduation rate rising.

Making the School Alive

“We want to continue to make school alive for our students,” says Bortot. “We have multiple electives available. When you make electives that appeal to students, students come to school, and they like those electives, which trickles down into their other courses.”

Mariscal is one of those students who truly loves her school, so much so that she drives from Bosque Farms every day. “I had choices to go to any school,” she says, “but I chose Del Norte because my mom went here, and she had a great experience, so I was willing to take the chance. I fell in love with it, and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere but here.”

A 12 percent increase in Del Norte’s graduation rate is substantial, and Bortot intends to continue that momentum. “We’re going to enjoy the celebration,” he says. “It’s a victory. It’s not where we want to be—we can do better, we know that—and we will continue to do better and strive to do what we need to do.”