Report shows state lags in literacy

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Education: LAHS students are ahead of the game

By Whitney Jones

More than 60 percent of 12th graders leave high school without the advanced reading and writing skills needed for college.

That’s according to a newly released report from the Alliance for Excellent Education.

The report notes that while the share of jobs in the United States that require postsecondary education has increased from 28 percent to 60 percent in the 1970s, the literacy performance of 17-year-olds has remained the same. A

And in New Mexico, 32 percent of 8th graders lack even partial mastery of grade-level knowledge and skills — that’s more than the 25 percent average nationwide according to 2011 National Assessment of Education Progress scores. And the report shows that only 21 percent of New Mexico 8th grade students are considered proficient, with one percent considered advanced.

According to the state Public Education Department’s 2011 School Grading Report, Los Alamos High School received a “B” or 12.4 out of 15 points for “Career and College Readiness.”

That grades the school on whether student are prepared for what’s after high school and have taken with college entrance exams, dual credit course work and course work leading to vocational training.

A further breakdown shows that 79 percent of all students were proficient in reading; 85 percent of females were proficient while only 74 percent of males were considered proficient. The report also shows that 88 percent of students at Los Alamos High graduated.

Los Alamos High School received an “A” overall in the report.

The Alliance for Excellent Education reports points to literacy as an indicator of future success for students and the fiscal health of state.

The organization’s report states that on average, high school graduates in New Mexico earn $6,328 more annually than high school dropouts. Approximately 12,800 students in the state dropped out from high school in 2011, the report states.

And had just half of those dropouts graduated, they may have provided 600 new jobs and $84 million in gross product in the state, the report states.

Los Alamos Public School Superintendent Gene Schmidt said the quality of education provided at the high school is quite high.

“I’ve seen some numbers that suggest we have the lowest number of students that are required to take a remedial course (in college),” he said.

He said there was a report from Eastern New Mexico University that one in 11 freshman students that graduated from Los Alamos High School need to take a remedial course.

“Some students take remedial courses, but that number is quite low,” he said.

And Schmidt said while’s he’s pleased with the numbers, “one is never happy until you’re perfect.”

As for the number of dropouts the high school has seen, he said some of the students want to merely continue on to higher education and get their General Education Development certificate, while others are quitting school.

“I think we run the spectrum,” he said.

According to state Public Education Department dropout figures, during to 2007/2008 school year 19 students dropped out — approximately 1.6 percent; during the 2008/2009 school year 17 students dropped out — approximately 1.5 percent; and during the 2009/2010 school year 25 students dropped out — approximately 2.2 percent.

Figures for the 2010/2011 school year were not available.

Even so, Schmidt said the school is making progress though.

He said the school does have programs to help struggling students reach graduation day including an alternative program for students needing a more structured learning setting.

But he advised for any student that a high school diploma has value and there are lessons learned through sticking out the entire four years of school.