New Mexico considers new high school diploma alternatives

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico education officials are considering a proposal that would change the path for students to use alternative methods to graduate if they don't get high enough scores on competency tests.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the proposed rule would mandate that all public and charter schools follow detailed alternatives that would be verified by the state's Public Education Department.

Under the rule, a student without the necessary scores would have to go through a new two-step process to meet competency requirements. Part of that process would include an internship or getting a minimum grade point average of 3.0 in an appropriate class.

The other step would be getting an industry-recognized certificate or completing dual credit coursework or another program. Students would also have the option of submitting a portfolio that could be used to meet the qualifications.

State Public Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski said the rule boils down to rigorous standards, more emphasis on methods that have a track record of success and a focus on career and technology education.

"A diploma should mean the same thing across New Mexico," he said.

To graduate, students must show they are competent in writing, math, science, social studies and reading through standardized testing scores. State statute allows for those with failing scores to use alternative demonstrations of competency.

The Public Education Department says the statute doesn't outline exact measures or processes, and the proposal would change that.

Ruszkowski said he was optimistic the change wouldn't negatively affect graduation rates.

In Las Cruces, school district officials say current policies already mirror what the state would be requiring. However, it could mean more paperwork for teachers, district spokesman Damien Willis said.

Rio Rancho officials said they expect graduation rates to be affected, while Santa Fe schools were still reviewing the proposal.

Officials with the state's largest district in Albuquerque said they agree with the philosophy of ensuring students are ready for college and careers but were still reviewing the proposal.

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Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com


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