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Parents, students have opportunity to help choose graduation requirements


With the governor’s signing of a new law updating the state’s high school curriculum, New Mexico families now have a prime opportunity to shape local high school course requirements in a way that will reflect your community’s values while ensuring that your graduates are college- and career-ready.   

While high school students still must complete 24 credits to graduate, two of those credits will now be determined locally in each district. 

Think New Mexico, a nonpartisan, results-oriented think tank, has researched courses that would be engaging and provide students with relevant, lifelong skills, as we detailed in our report, “A Roadmap for Rethinking Public Education in New Mexico.” We encourage parents and students to reach out to school board members and urge them to select two local course requirements that will provide a well-rounded school experience. We hope that you might advocate for some of the following options: 

. . .

  • Financial literacy is currently an elective, but only about 11 percent of students take this class despite 100 percent of them needing it, especially in a state that ranks 49th in financial literacy. Currently, 25 states covering 53 percent of students nationwide require students to complete a standalone financial literacy course. A 2022 poll of 751 likely New Mexico voters found that 84 percent believe it is very important for students to learn personal finance in high school. 
  • Career and technical education can benefit all students. They can explore their interests and talents and learn lifelong skills from courses such as journalism, healthcare, teaching or culinary arts. Internships and work-based learning also offer hands-on experience that keeps school relevant and engaging.  
  • A language other than English, because multilingualism can positively affect memory, problem solving and critical thinking skills. Studies show that second language learners perform better across a range of academic subjects than students who don’t study a second language.  
  • Computer science skills are increasingly essential in most careers. According to Education Week, in 2023 U.S. schools expanded foundational computer science classes at the fastest rate in the last five years. Currently, Hispanic students are 1.4 times less likely than white and Asian peers to enroll in computer science, while female participation in computer science nationally has been stuck at around 31 percent. 
  • Health: Currently, one semester of health education is required, but adding another semester would provide students with more in-depth knowledge of how to lead healthy lives. Virtually all leading causes of premature death are rooted in unhealthy behaviors that are largely preventable. New Mexico’s youth obesity rate (23.9 percent) significantly exceeds the national rate (17 percent) and our overall suicide rate ranked fourth in the nation in 2021. 
  • Art helps students explore their creative capabilities while building social-emotional and communication skills, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as resilience and a growth mindset. A National Endowment for the Arts analysis found that students highly involved in arts had more positive outcomes in graduation rates and civic participation.  
  • Career planning: Students need guidance as they transition to high school and begin thinking about their path forward. With often limited access to counselors, freshmen could benefit from a class to help with career exploration as well as teach them soft skills like time management. While the American School Counselor Association recommends a counselor-to-student ratio of 1:250, New Mexico’s ratio in the 2022-2023 school year was 1:448.  
    . . .. . .

We encourage readers to reach out to us at info@thinknewmexico.org if you would like more information about how you can help shape your school district’s local graduation requirements.  

Mandi Torrez is the Education Reform Director for Think New Mexico and the 2020 New Mexico Teacher of the Year. 

graduation requirements, new law, high school curriculum