New Mexico (KRQE) – Twenty New Mexico high schools are about to be transformed in order to better equip students and to improve the general high school experience. The schools will be given between $150,000 to $750,000 to re-imagine the school experience. These high schools will be known as “Innovation Zones,” and are seeking to improve academic success rates by implementing new techniques to make school more exciting for young adults.

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The schools hope that these new ideas will better prepare students for both college and careers, and are seeking to identify new cornerstones of the high school model to slowly spread across additional schools and districts.

The schools identified as Innovation Zones are from a multitude of districts, including:

  • Alamogordo (1 school)
  • Albuquerque (2 schools)
  • Aztec (2 schools)
  • Hatch Valley (2 schools)
  • Hobbs (1 school)
  • Las Cruces (6 schools)
  • Rio Rancho (4 schools)
  • Silver City (1 school)
  • Zuni (1 school)

These Innovation Zones plan to work with their communities to help deduce how the education system can best assist and serve that community. They plan to do this by creating a “Profile of a Graduate” – a list of expectations that the community has for the average high school grad. This mission statement will be how the Innovation Zone decides upon, revamps, and plans out the new high school experience.

The 20 schools were chosen as participants because of their apparent leadership in the mission of the program and were evaluated on 7 core principles, which include:

  • Leadership and pathway teams
  • Alignment of Career Technical Education with core academics
  • Work-based and experiential learning
  • Capstone courses
  • Post-secondary alignment
  • Robust personalized supports
  • Evaluation and continuous improvement

Currently, New Mexico’s graduation rate is 78.8%, one of the lowest in the nation. Additional statistics show that 61% of high school graduates are enrolled in college, 16% of high school students are pursuing Career Technical Education Courses, 3.8% of high school students are enrolled in work-based learning, and 15% of high school students are enrolled in dual credit courses.

Right now, the pursuit of better college and career preparation in high schools across New Mexico seems to rest on the shoulders of these 20 schools.