SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Public Education Department has announced that it has accounted for nearly 5,000 of the over 12,000 New Mexico students who were enrolled in public schools last spring but not this fall and were feared to be outside of the educational system. PED reports that most of the 4,926 students are being home-schooled, are enrolled in private or Bureau of Indian Education schools, or have moved out of state.

Deputy Secretaries Katarina Sandoval and Gwen Perea Warniment told the Legislative Education Study Committee that others switched school districts, or withdrew for reasons like pregnancy or to get a GED. “A large number of students we previously identified as disengaged were on that list because the data in our system doesn’t show where that student is currently enrolled,” said Sandoval in a press release. “We want to track each student down. If they are attending private school, it is critical that we receive and verify that information to make sure the child is in school and safe. If a student isn’t attending school, then it’s essential that we determine what resources the student needs and get them that support.”

According to PED, the department and partner agencies continue to cross check databases to locate and reach out to the families of the remaining 7,260 students who are currently unaccounted for to assess their well-being and to determine their current and future educational plans. The department states that school districts are required to report attendance and enrollment figures to the PED at regular intervals starting in late October.

Usually, that 40-day attendance data would go through a reported weeks-long scrubbing process to verify accuracy before it’s released to the public in early December. PED reports that this year, the unverified figure was released much earlier due to growing public concern about a decrease in school enrollment amid the pandemic.

In a press release, the PED says that the original number of 12,186 began dwindling when the data was cross-checked with a database of students who are being homeschooled. This resulted in 1,741 of the unaccounted for students.

Additional analysis discovered students on the list who had withdrawn due to pregnancy or to pursue GEDs, who were incarcerated, who transferred to private or Bureau of Indian Education schools, or who had died. The PED states that its database is being cross-checked this week with more current data held by 13 of the state’s most densely populated school districts.

The process has accounted for 3,185 additional students on the list of 12,00 and will account for additional students as the process continues. In total, the department states these districts account for the majority of the over 12,000 students who were enrolled in New Mexico public schools last spring but not this fall.

The PED reports accounting for all New Mexico students is a priority effort for the department, school districts, and four other state agencies including Children, Youth and Families, Early Childhood Education and Care, Human Services, and Indian Affairs. An additional partner, the Graduation Alliance, is under contract with PED.

PED and the Graduation Alliance started state-level outreach two weeks ago and mailed letters to every name on the list. The department reports that as of Thursday, 738 families responded.

Of those who responded, 624 students are still in New Mexico while 114 families have moved out of state. The survey responses found that only 21 students were receiving no schooling at all.

Three of those have requested an academic coach through Engage NM in order to assist them in getting re-enrolled. PED reports that outreach to the other students continues.

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