The Decline Of Los Alamos Public Schools


Discussions of the overall ranking of Los Alamos Public Schools (LAPS) have emerged during the candidate forums for the School Board Candidates.  The journal US News and World Report has traditionally ranked colleges and high schools and those rankings are widely distributed.  The older rankings are not available online, but the 2021 rankings have been published.  The current ranking summary for Los Alamos High School states:

Schools are ranked on their performance on state-required tests, graduation and how well they prepare students for college. LAHS is ranked #4 amongst New Mexico High Schools. The scorecard is 


  • 63%

Took at Least One AP® Exam

  • 50%

Passed at Least One AP® Exam

  • 32%

Mathematics Proficiency

  • 68%

Reading Proficiency

  • 91%

Graduation Rate

Ranking Factors

How Los Alamos High performed nationally and statewide out of 17,857 nationally ranked schools and 150 schools ranked in New Mexico.

Ranking FactorsNationalState
College Readiness Index Rank#1,040 (tie)#6
College Curriculum Breadth Index Rank#1,100 (tie)#5
Math and Reading Proficiency Rank#1,103#10
Math and Reading Performance Rank#4,209#36
Graduation Rate Rank#9,714#24

There is more information on the US News website:

In summary, the New Mexico ranking is #4.    

1. The college prep side rankings are 5th to 6th in the state.  This is well below the magnet schools in the state and probably used to be higher.

2. The math and reading proficiency rank is #10 in the state. This is from state assessments. This is surprisingly low and will be looked at further.

3. The math and reading performance rank is the proficiency normalized to the socioeconomic status.  We are #36 in New Mexico.  

4. Graduation rate rank is #24 in New Mexico. This is just the portion of 9th graders that graduate four years later.  This is reduced by a large number of GEDs, that is, kids that drop out with the equivalency exam.  We need a high school that serves everyone in the community, not just the college prep track. 

The older rankings are not available online, but many of us believe that the rankings used to be much higher.  We began to search for sources covering the previous decades. There is a website,, showing the last 15 years of high school rankings. This rankings site is based on state assessment testing.  Remember, New Mexico is 50th in the nation.  LAPS used to be near number one in the state.  It is hard to always be number one, as there are magnet schools with selective admissions that are very close. This is all pre-pandemic, but it shows a trend towards the test scores outlined in the US News website. We also compared this to the middle school to see if the decline was only at the high school. The Percentile Ranks are graphed in the first figure and the same results are collected into the graph:

Rank History for Los Alamos High School

YearAvg Standard ScoreStatewide RankTotal # Ranked High SchoolsNM State Percentile

Data source: test scores: New Mexico Public Education Department, rankings:

Rank History for Los Alamos Middle School

YearAvg Standard ScoreStatewide RankTotal # Ranked Middle SchoolsNM State Percentile

Data source: test scores: New Mexico Public Education Department, rankings:

As we can see the middle school decline is significant, but not as large as that of the high school.  The trend seems to be system wide and starting well before the pandemic.  The main point of our public schools is to prepare students by teaching them the fundamentals, reading, math, etc.  The Los Alamos public schools are declining in these fundamental measures, and none of us should wait to see where this decline ends.
The school board elections are already underway and many voters may not be aware of the decline.  It is past time for a change. Please support candidates for traditional education: Paul Anthony Jaramillo, Nickole Aguilar Garcia and Rick Mooday.

David Reagor
White Rock