NMPED, partners find additional ‘missing’ students

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(KRQE/File Photo) Classroom; empty – generic

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The New Mexico Public Education Department and its partners report that they have accounted for nearly half of the students who were enrolled in public schools last spring but not this fall and were feared to be outside the educational system. PED says that as of Wednesday, 6,270 students remain unaccounted for which is down from 12,186 in mid-November.

The department explains that most of those students that are now accounted for are enrolled in private or Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, have moved out of state, or are being home schooled. PED states that the next phase will start next week and involves direct outreach to families of students who remain unaccounted for.

Tactics may include phone calls, emails, and in some instances, COVID-safe home visits. Partners that are involved in the outreach effort include Early Childhood Education and Care Department, the Indian Affairs Department, the Office of African American Affairs, and the Children, Youth and Families Department.

PED states that when school resumed in August, individual school districts started to try to locate students who were enrolled in the spring but didn’t return in the fall. Districts are required to report enrollment and attendance data to the department at regular intervals starting in late October.

The data is typically not released until it’s fully verified which is a weeks-long process. However, due to growing public concern about disengaged students during remote and hybrid learning models, the department says that it broke protocol in November by announcing the unverified data.

PED explains that since then, the department and its sister agencies have worked with the Graduation Alliance to locate students on the list to inquire about the families’ overall well-being and to verify that students are safe and are taking part in learning. The initial step at PED was to identify the 14 largest school districts where the majority of the unaccounted for students were previously enrolled.

The department sent each district a list of students with grade level and identification number and asked them to cross-check the information with their own data. This cross-check resulted in 3,378 students that were actually accounted for.

Additionally, PED cross-checked the original list of 12,186 against the state’s homeschool database and found that another 1,741 students whose parents had completed the forms to homeschool them. These names were also removed from the list.

PED reports that the second deadline for districts and charters to report attendance to PED passed just before winter break and in preparing that report, districts found another 797 previously “missing” students had reappeared on school rolls. PED states that 899 families have responded to a letter sent to the last-known address for all 12,186 unaccounted-for students.

Only 32 of those were still living in New Mexico but were no longer receiving educational services. They were referred to Engage NM which offers coaching, enrollment assistance, or other aid for students that are disengaged.

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