New Mexico High School Students’ Coursetaking and Graduation Exam Performance Under Changing Graduation Requirements, 2011–2015
In 2009, New Mexico adopted more rigorous high school math and science requirements as well as a new high school graduation exam aligned with the state’s new curriculum standards.
Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Southwest and the New Mexico Public Education Department collaborated to learn how American Indian and Hispanic students are faring under the new requirements.
The new high school requirements address state education priorities.
Improving high school graduation rates for American Indian and Hispanic students is a priority in New Mexico, as is ensuring that all students have the knowledge and skills required for success in the 21st century workplace.
New Mexico transitioned gradually to the new high school course requirements and exam.
New Mexico’s Class of 2012 (those students in grade 9 in 2008/09) was the first to take the new high school graduation exam. However, students’ scores on the exam did not affect graduation until the Class of 2013, when the new math and science course requirements also went into effect.
The percentage of students taking Algebra II and two lab science courses rose over time.
Among New Mexico students who attended four years of high school, the percentage who took Algebra II and two lab science courses increased from the 2014 to the 2015 cohort.
An increase in enrollment in Algebra II and two lab science courses was seen for all racial/ethnic groups.
Among New Mexico students who attended four years of high school, the rates of increase in taking Algebra II and two lab science courses held across racial/ethnic groups from the 2014 to the 2015 cohort, with American Indian students showing the highest rates.
Higher graduation rates were associated with meeting the new math and science requirements.
The four-year graduation rate was higher among New Mexico students who took Algebra II and two lab science courses by grade 12 than among students who did not for the 2014 and 2015 cohorts. However, from 2014 to 2015, graduation rates increased among students who did not take Algebra II and two lab science courses.
Female students who met the new course requirements graduated at higher rates than their male counterparts.
Among New Mexico students who enrolled in Algebra II and two lab science courses by grade 12, the four-year graduation rate was higher for female students than male students across racial/ethnic groups.
The percentage of students taking the new high school graduation exam fluctuated.
The percentage of New Mexico students who took the new high school graduation exam dipped among the 2013 cohort but then rose among the 2014 and 2015 cohorts. A higher percentage of White students took the exam compared to other racial/ethnic groups.
The percentage of students who scored proficient or better on all sections of the new exam increased over time.
The percentage of New Mexico students who took a graduation exam and scored proficient or better on the reading, math, and science sections by grade 12 increased from the 2011 cohort to the 2015 cohort, particularly among Black and Hispanic students.
Performance on the new high school graduation exam is linked to graduation rates.
Scoring proficient or better on more sections of the new high school graduation exam was associated with higher graduation rates across the 2011 to 2015 cohorts. Graduation rates declined among those students who took the exam in grade 11 but failed to pass any of the sections from the 2013 to 2015 cohorts.
The findings can inform policy and practice.
By better understanding the extent to which New Mexico high school students are completing advanced math and science courses across various demographic groups, educators in the state can better target student supports.
Results show improvements for some student groups.
New Mexico high school students’ advanced course enrollment, graduation exam performance, and graduation rates all show improvement. However, some student groups continue to lag behind.
Future research could examine the use of alternative demonstrations of competency.
Some New Mexico high schools are using alternative demonstrations of competency to support students who are struggling to meet the new requirements, such as students with limited English proficiency. Future research may want to examine district exceptions to the state graduation requirements, including the use of parent waivers, to shed light on this trend.
REL Southwest is one of ten Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs) that work in partnership to conduct applied research and trainings with a mission of supporting a more evidence-based education system. The REL program is part of the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education.