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November 1, 2002
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New Mexico's Dropout Rate Lowest in 15 Years

(Santa Fe, NM)-New Mexico's dropout rate for grades 9-12 declined to 5.3 percent in 2000-2001, the lowest rate in 15 years, the New Mexico State Department of Education (SDE) announced today. In addition, all grades, including grades 7-12, experienced a decline in dropout rates, the SDE reported before a hearing in Las Cruces on dropout prevention in New Mexico. District statistics will be compiled in the SDE's Dropout Study 2000-2001, to be released in December.

Statewide statistics show that the number of students dropping out of public schools is continuing its six-year decline. In 2000-2001, a total of 5,095 students out of an enrollment of 95,427 (or 5.3 percent) in grades 9-12 dropped out of school.

"Our efforts to keep students in school are working! New Mexico's schools are to be congratulated for pursuing innovative programs and strategies to meet the needs of at-risk students. It is essential that we remain creative in our approach and keep families, communities, businesses and governmental entities involved," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael J. Davis. "This decline in dropout rates coincides with the implementation over the past few years of the New Mexico State Board of Education's (SBE) Accountability Program," he said.

The SBE has included dropout rates as one of five indicators for rating schools as "exemplary," "exceeds standards," "meets standards" or "probationary" under the program.

The SDE reported that:

· Hispanic students in grades 9-12 had the highest dropout rate (6.7 percent) of all ethnic groups, followed by Native Americans (5.9 percent) and Blacks (5.2 percent).

· The dropout rate for grades 7-8 decreased to 0.9 percent (442 students out of an enrollment of 49,771) in 2000-2001. This is the lowest rate recorded since 1987-88.

Dropout rates in New Mexico have fluctuated since the mid-1980s, but in recent years have remained well below the 10.4 percent high recorded in 1988-89.

The dropout statistics are based on 40th day enrollment.