Public Education Department, Partners Aim To Locate Every Disengaged Student

PUBLIC EDUCATION DEPARTMENT NEWSFollowing mailing, direct outreach to begin next week

The Public Education Department and 13 New Mexico school districts committed this week to find thousands of New Mexico students who were enrolled last spring but not this fall to make sure they are safe and engaged in learning.

The PED has calculated that more than 12,000 students may be unaccounted for based on attendance data reported to the agency at the end of October. Thirteen school districts account for an overwhelming majority of that number, and superintendents from those districts met virtually Thursday with PED leaders to discuss next steps.

“This is a huge priority across the state and an all-hands-on-deck partnership. We’re going to dive deeply and see how many of them we can find and support,” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said.

The superintendents made clear that they were reaching out to disengaged students long before they were required to report the so-called “40th day” attendance figures to the state in late October.

“All of us have done everything we can think of to reach out to these families,” Superintendent Arsenio Romero of Deming said. “Is there anything else in our toolbox that we haven’t done in the past?”

“We’ve written letters; we’ve called; we’ve knocked on doors,” Superintendent Sue Cleveland from Rio Rancho said.

PED and its partner, the Graduation Alliance, sent letters through the mail last week to every name on the list and began getting responses this week. Early replies indicated some students have enrolled in private schools or Bureau of Indian Education schools; some are being home-schooled, and others have moved out of state. 

To obtain better contact information, the Human Services, Children, Youth and Families and Early Childhood Education and Care departments are cross-checking names on PED’s list with their own databases. 

HSD’s cross-check turned up about 5,000 matches; CYFD’s cross-check turned up about 4,300 students who had previous contact of some kind with that agency.

The agency partners have divided up the new contact lists and will begin direct outreach to individual families next week with help from the Graduation Alliance. 

“Our goal is to understand where these students are living, what they’re doing, whether they need services, and what their plans are for schooling — present and future. If they need assistance re-enrolling, we’ll  provide that, too,” said PED Deputy Secretary Katarina Sandoval.

Meanwhile, the superintendents are comparing the PED student list to their own updated enrollment information and discovering that, in many cases, districts have already located many of the disengaged students. For example, PED lists 500 disengaged students in Rio Rancho.

“I can tell you where every child has gone except for 136 of them,” Cleveland said. “We’re down to 136, but that’s still too many.”