Portales increases graduation rates

By Tony Parra

The Portales Schools District has already met one requirement of the adequately yearly progress guidelines by improving its high school graduation rate from 87 percent for the 2003-04 school year to 94 percent in 2004-05 school year.
The district had more than 150 students graduate, but Priscilla Mestas, assistant superintendent and director of instruction said those percentages and numbers are still under review. She said the 94 percent is an uncertified number at this point.
“I think it has to do with the teacher dealing with the students and being more sensitive to the problem,” Portales High School principal Melvin Nusser said. “A major key is that our people work really hard by calling kids and finding out why they are dropping out.”
Nusser said online classes and credit recovery courses will help improve the graduation rate.
Increasing the graduation rate is one of the AYP requirements under the “No Child Left Behind” act.
The graduation rates for the schools in New Mexico is figured from the student’s senior year. For example, after the 40th day of enrollment the students are counted and if there are 100 students after the 40th day and only 95 receive a diploma then the school’s graduation rate is 95 percent.
New Mexico is one of the states under scrutiny from a report from The Education Trust. The Education Trust was established in 1990 by the Association for Higher Education and is an independent nonprofit organization.
The report said New Mexico reported an almost 90 percent graduation rate because it reports only the percentage of high school seniors who go on and graduate, not the percentage of freshman who eventually graduate.
Nusser said keeping track of freshmen throughout high school is possible. He said one obstacle would be that if a student moves to another school, the student is counted against the school until they receive documented enrollment from the school the student enrolled in.
Nusser said the New Mexico graduation rate system also penalizes New Mexico high schools. He said if a student transfers out of Portales High School after the 40th day, or quits school due to sickness, that student is counted against the graduation rate.
North Carolina was also criticized for reporting a 97 percent graduation rate. According to a press release from The Education Trust, state officials report the percentage of graduates who receive their diploma in four years or less, so if a student drops out their sophomore year it doesn’t count against the graduation rate.
Three states, Alabama, Louisiana and Massachusetts didn’t even report graduation rates. The report also finds that the United States ranks 17th in the developed world in high school completion rates.
Graduation rates at all of the rural schools in Roosevelt County were at 100 percent in 2005, according to school officials. Elida had all 10 of its students graduate, while Dora had 14 graduates and Floyd 17.
Elida, Dora and Floyd each had 100 percent graduation rates in 2004 as well, according to each school’s officials.