PRESS RELEASE - September 17, 2003
New Mexico State Department
of Education

300 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, NM 87501-2786

Ruth Williams
Public Outreach Director
(505) 476-0393

Sixty-Nine Percent of 10th Grade Students Pass High School Competency Examination

(Albuquerque, NM)--The New Mexico State Department of Education (SDE) announced today that 69 percent of all 10th grade public high school students passed the standardized English administration of the New Mexico High School Competency Examination in 2003. This was an improvement of 2.9 percent over last year and 4.6 percent over 2001.

The examination is administered to students, including most special education students, for the first time in 10th grade to assess competencies in the content areas of reading, language arts, mathematics, science, social studies and writing composition. Students must pass all six subtests to receive a diploma.

Of the 18,910 10th grade students attempting all six subtests, 69 percent passed all six at the cut score of 175. 84.5 percent of Whites passed the test, followed by 84.3 percent of Asians, 61.4 percent of Hispanics, 58.2 percent of Blacks and 49.7 percent of American Indians. All ethnic groups experienced increases in the percentages of students passing as compared to last year. The largest increases were for Asians (5.3 percent more than in 2001-2002), followed by Blacks (5.1 percent), American Indians (3.8 percent), Hispanics (3.3 percent) and Whites (1.3 percent).

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael J. Davis said, “The results of the High School Competency Exam show that a majority of students graduating from New Mexico’s public schools has mastered basic educational skills. But with American Indians, we continue to see under performance. All students need and deserve a high school environment that has high expectations for their success.”

The strongest performance of students was in composition (98.2 percent passing), followed by reading (92.5 percent), social studies (85.7 percent), mathematics (84.9 percent), science (82.4 percent) and language arts (82.2 percent). Special education students (2,722) performed below non-special education students in all five content areas, for a total passing percentage of 19.9 percent of special education test-takers. Economically challenged students (6,735) had a total passing percentage of 50.5 percent, compared to 70.8 percent for non-economically challenged students (14,090).

Sophomores who fail any part of the examination have another chance in their junior year and two chances in their senior year to successfully complete the examination before graduation. Seniors who do not pass the examination, but fulfill the other course and credit requirements, can exit with a certificate of completion or return within five years to retake the examination, pass it and receive a diploma.