The Ministry of Public Education is still looking for 12,000 “disengaged” students
“We know some families have left the state, and they are keeping us in the loop right now,” said Rebekah Richards, director of studies at Graduation Alliance, a group the state is working with to get children back to school. ‘school.
“We also know that some families choose different modes of learning – whether it is homeschool or private school, and we just need to update their records,” she added.
Authorities also believe that some children may have been withdrawn from school by their families for other reasons.
“For other families, they may have made some very difficult decisions about raising their children as they try to balance complex issues in their lives and what we want to communicate with these families is that we’re here to help them, ”said Richards.
The state said it hoped for additional responses in the coming weeks and would follow up with a targeted approach using other state agencies like the CYFD.
State Representative Rebecca Dow, a Republican, told KOB 4 that she worries the 12,000 children are not just missing school.
“At the very least, they don’t get any education,” she said.
“In the worst case scenario, their lives may be in danger or forever damaged by abuse and neglect,” added Dow.
Dow also criticized the state for taking months to send the letters when each district’s attendance is reported to the state in October, the 40th day of the school year.
A spokesperson for PED said the department needs to validate data from nearly 900 schools statewide.
“Once confirmed, our outreach and response efforts will be strong and swiftly implemented, starting with letters, followed by one-on-one phone calls, district and tribal level collaboration, and additional communication from our partners at ECECD, HSD and CYFD, with the aim of locating each student, ensuring their well-being, clarifying their intention to remain enrolled and offering differentiated support to re-engage them with their school local, ”said the spokesperson.
Meanwhile, Democratic state representative Andrés Romero said he believed the letters were a good way to take control of the situation.
He told KOB 4 that he hopes the state and districts will work together to locate the children.
“Really, the role of the state is to make sure that the infrastructure is there to have these conversations, to understand what the situation is for these families and to be able to help and remedy it to really bring our students back. in our virtual classrooms, ”he said.
A children’s advocacy group, NewMexicoKidsCAN, said districts and the state should have acted faster.
“Sure. PED didn’t know how many kids were missing until day 40, technically, but every school and every school district should have known from that first week of school, second week of school, month to month. school – these children are not. Introduce themselves, ”said Amanda Aragon, executive director of the association.
“We can’t contact them, so there was no need to wait until mid-December to say ‘oh my god’, we have a problem here,” she added.
Aragon said it was not clear what was happening with the missing students.
“Some of these kids probably don’t connect, don’t contact the district because their parents are teaching them at home,” she said.
However, she is also concerned that the children are in danger.
“But what keeps me from sleeping at night is which of these children is in danger because we have lost daily contact with them,” she said.
“Usually in person, when school is normal, we know when there is a problem, we can alert the authorities, we can call CYFD. In this scenario, we have 12,000 children who have had no contact with their school at least this school year, ”Aragon added.
Asked about the state’s plan to locate the missing students, a spokesperson for Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham referred the questions to PED.
A spokesperson for PED sent a statement from Secretary of Public Education Ryan Stewart:
“PED and our partners are working quickly and diligently to verify the status of the more than 12,000 New Mexico students who were enrolled last spring but are not enrolled this fall.
PED partnered up with the Graduation Alliance last spring to provide coaching and counseling to individual students, and they did this job competently. When we got 40-day attendance figures this fall, it was clear we needed more help. So we quickly put together an interagency team to resolve the issue.
We are grateful for the help of the Department of Children, Youth and Families, the Department of Early Childhood Education and Care, and the Department of Indian Affairs in this important work.
Our coalition encountered many obstacles, the first being finding the unenrolled students. At the PED, we only had student addresses. But our sister agencies have cross-checked their databases with ours – a process that is still ongoing and producing more complete and up-to-date contact information. “
The planning phase shifted to the action phase last week when the Graduation Alliance sent a letter to each of the more than 12,000 disengaged students. These letters weren’t received until the end of last week, so we were delighted to start receiving our first responses on Monday, with more to come today; we expect a lot more in the coming weeks.
The letter had a wide reach. What comes next is targeted outreach to every family / student on the list, and our partners are helping us with that as well. We divide the lists between our partners, who will attempt to call each student / family to determine if the student has moved out of state; enrolled in a private school; is home schooled; or needs help re-enrolling in public school.
This work will continue to evolve until we are confident that every child in New Mexico is safe and receiving the education our state promised.
Parents interested in re-enrolling their students using a free program offered by the state to get their children back on track can call 505-219-2661. They can also register for the program on the ParentsNM.GraduationAlliance.com website.