Focus: New Mexico
New Mexico educators are working hard to improve the state's high school graduation rate, which has been rising but still ranks among the nation's lowest. For students in New Mexico, grade 9 is a critical year; the majority of those who drop out do so the summer afterward. Our New Mexico Achievement Gap Research Alliance indicated a high-priority need for data to help guide state and local efforts to support students' transition to high school, particularly for American Indian and Hispanic students.
In response, REL Southwest researchers are working with the alliance to conduct a study assessing the role of social-emotional learning and school environment in New Mexico students' successful transition to grade 9. The goal is to identify key factors that may help inform policies or interventions intended to improve American Indian and Hispanic students' high school success—and the state's graduation rate.
Developing and administering a grade 9 student survey
2015/16 New Mexico
Grade 9 Student Survey
Results available in 2017.
- 3,000+ students
- 14 high schools
- 10 school districts
To gather data, REL Southwest researchers and alliance members developed a survey to measure grade 9 students' perceptions of their social-emotional skills and school environments. In the first part of the survey, students responded to a series of items measuring key social-emotional skills, such as grit/perseverance, motivation, self-regulation, and growth mindset. A growing body of research finds that these skills have a positive impact on academic performance. In addition, students rated aspects of their school environment, such as school safety, positive relationships with teachers and other staff, teacher expectations for student success, and the rigor and relevance of coursework.
Alliance members played an instrumental role in designing the survey. In turn, REL Southwest researchers provided expertise and technical assistance. Over the course of two intensive workshops and several meetings, researchers helped alliance members identify survey topics, select survey scales, and review survey items. Members then assisted with conducting a pilot test of survey items, recruiting students for cognitive interviews, and identifying high schools to participate in the survey.
From November 2015 to January 2016, REL Southwest researchers administered the survey at 14 high schools in 10 school districts across New Mexico. More than 3,000 grade 9 students completed the survey, which was available in English and Spanish and in both online and paper formats.
Analyzing the survey responses and how they relate to students' grade 9 outcomes
Analysis of the survey responses is underway. Once this analysis is complete, each participating high school will receive an individualized report summarizing its students' survey responses, both overall and by racial/ethnic group. Alliance members will also receive a report describing the survey's development, administration, and results.
Next, researchers will analyze how students' survey responses relate to three grade 9 measures: GPA, absences, and course failures. Research shows that these three measures best determine whether a student had a successful freshman year. The final results, which will be provided both overall and by racial/ethnic group, will indicate how well different social-emotional skills and school climate factors help predict students' successful high school transition, after controlling for grade 8 achievement.
Reporting the results and implications for policy and practice
A report of the final results will be available in 2017. Principals at several of the participating high schools plan to use the findings to help guide strategic planning. In addition, alliance members and their colleagues, who include policymakers, educators, and practitioners at the state and local levels, plan to use the findings to inform the development of policies and interventions to support students' success in high school, with a focus on American Indian and Hispanic students.
Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest at SEDL • 4700 Mueller Blvd. • Austin, TX 78723 • 800-476-6861 • firstname.lastname@example.org