Education

Taos schools graduate above state average

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Schools in Taos received their official graduation rates recently from the state and are looking to make some improvements in numbers this year.

For the past three years, several schools in the Taos area graduated students at a rate higher than the state's average. Others have fluctuated widely in graduation rates.

For 2017, Taos Academy topped the list with a 94.3 percent graduation rate, the highest in the county and one of the highest in the state. The average for Taos schools for 2017 was a 77.4 percent graduation rate.

"The teachers are incredibly proud that the kids are completely committed and take ownership to go to UNM and be a part of college classes," said Taos Academy co-founder and Director Traci Filiss.

Taos Academy increased its graduation rate dramatically, up from 79 percent from the 2016 rate. The school's 2015 rate was 84.2 percent.

Designated as an early college high school by the state two years ago, Filiss said the school has its College Link program to thank for their high numbers. The program allows students to specialize in a field they want to be involved in and gets students motivated to take steps in their chosen career field. Students are offered dual credit and college experience through the program, which Filiss said they highly enjoy.

Vista Grande is another school showing promise. The school has consistently raised its graduation rates over the past three years from a low of 56.2 percent in 2015. Vista Grande graduated its 2017 class with a 78.4 percent rate, the third-highest graduation rate in the area.

"I think it's due to a really incredible staff who works well together," said school director Isabelle St. Onge. "All of it is due to the teaching staff."

St. Onge said much of Vista Grande's success in recent years comes from the student's "crew structure," which acts as a daily advisory period for students. Students meet with teachers and peers, who keep track of their progress in school and begin working on next-step plans. These plans are crucial to the students' next steps, and college or trade schools are a conversation topic in the groups along with high school graduation.

"We get them thinking about the future right away," St. Onge said.

Taos, Peñasco and Questa high schools dropped in their graduation rates from 2016, but school officiawls say they will focus on improving their numbers as May graduation looms nearer.

Graduation rates are calculated by the State Public Education Department based on a formula which accounts for students moving in and out of the school. The formula divides the number of "on-time" graduates in a certain year by first-time ninth-graders plus transfers in minus the number of student transfers out of the school.

For 2017, the New Mexico average graduation rate was 71 percent which remained constant from the previous year. The state improved a bit in 2016 from the 2015 rate of 68.6 percent.

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