Public Education Department And Partners Account For 7,500+ Students


List of unaccounted-for students shrinks from 12,286 to 4,639

The New Mexico Public Education Department and its partners have accounted for almost two-thirds of the 12,000-plus students who were enrolled in public schools last spring but not this fall and were therefore feared to be outside the educational system.

As of this week, 7,547 students — 62 percent — had been located through direct outreach,  district feedback via spreadsheets, cross-referencing databases and more recent attendance data reported by districts and charter schools to the Public Education Department in early December.

That leaves 4,639 students still unaccounted for, down from a high of 12,186 in mid-November. 

The PED and its partner agencies — the Early Childhood Education and Care Department; the Indian Affairs Department; the Office of African American Affairs; the Children, Youth and Families Department, and the Human Services Department — began direct outreach last week, calling hundreds of families of students who remain unaccounted for, talking directly to some families and leaving messages for others. Follow-up calls are underway this week, to be followed by COVID-safe home visits starting next week for those who can’t be reached by phone.

The Graduation Alliance, PED’s partner in re-engaging with students, is also helping with outreach.

Most of the students accounted for so far have enrolled in either public, private or Bureau of Indian Education schools, while others have moved out of state or are being home-schooled.

PED Secretary Ryan Stewart said the work will continue until every school-age New Mexico child and youth is known to be safe and engaged in learning.

The statewide effort to account for students began with a letter sent in November to each student’s last known address. As of Tuesday, responses to that letter had accounted for 1,038 students, with additional responses continuing to trickle in. To date, 91 of those responding to the mailer requested additional assistance; nine were referred to the Children, Youth and Families Department; and 42 were found to not be attending school at all.

“These families are facing lots of loss, lots of challenges. We’re hearing heart-wrenching stories,” Deputy Secretary Katarina Sandoval said. “We have families hit by COVID loss and secondary students who were separated from their families because of housing issues. In some cases,  school just fell by the wayside. We’re getting them the referrals they need to get back on track.”

Districts are required to report enrollment and attendance data to PED at regular intervals, beginning in late October. That data is usually not released until it is carefully verified — a weeks-long process — but because of growing public concern about disengaged students amid remote and hybrid learning models, the department broke protocol in November by announcing the unverified data suggesting more than 12,000 students were unaccounted for.