PED: New Mexico House Passes Bill Updating Graduation Requirements


HB83 provides flexible pathways for high school students 

The New Mexico House of Representatives has passed legislation to modernize graduation requirements by giving New Mexico high school students more pathways to a diploma while maintaining academic rigor for all.

The House voted 66-1 on Monday in favor of HB 83 by Rep. G. Andres Romero. The bill would reduce the number of credits required for graduation from 24 to 23 beginning with students entering ninth grade in the 2022-2023 school year. New Mexico is one of only 14 states that currently require 24 credits; two-thirds of states require 22 or fewer. 

The measure also introduces capstone courses, which allow a student to apply and demonstrate a range of knowledge and skills in one project.  All ninth- through 12th-graders could undertake a capstone course as elective credit. Beginning with high school seniors in the 2022-23 school year and for both juniors and seniors beginning in 2023-24, approved capstone courses could substitute for any core subject requirement. 

The proposal would still require four units of English and math to graduate, but fewer specific courses would be mandated. Students would still have to take freshman and sophomore English and algebra 1, but after that they could choose from alternatives like journalism or statistics. Algebra 2 would no longer be required.

“This is not a one-size-fits all world, and there is no reason high school should be either,” said Rep. Romero, a history teacher at Atrisco Heritage Academy High School in Albuquerque. “We have students who could benefit from courses like technical writing or construction math but can’t work them into their schedules. This bill would change that.” 

High school students currently select 7 ½ electives over four years; that would be cut to 6 ½ under the legislation because many electives would now fill core requirements.

“This legislation would give students the flexibility to choose a path that is right for them, whether that is the traditional path to college or something else, ” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said. “We want to offer real and appropriate options while assuring that all our graduates complete an academic program with the rigor and cultural relevance that will prepare them for life.”

The bill proposes no change in the number of credits for science (3), social studies (3 ½) or physical education (1), although it would tweak the courses that could be required or accepted in those areas:

  • Marching band could count as a physical education credit;
  • Options like environmental engineering and wildlife management could count as a science credit; 
  • Government/civics would become a one-credit required course, up from one-half;
  • New Mexico history would no longer be required as a separate course but would be covered in U.S. history. 

Students would still be required to earn a credit in a career cluster or workplace readiness course or a language other than English.

If approved, the legislation would be the first overhaul of New Mexico graduation requirements since 2007, when the focus was college readiness. More recent research challenged the assumption that increasing requirements, especially in science and math, had the intended effect.