Rio Rancho Public Schools purchased this former Alliance Data building on Zenith Court to be its new Career Technical Education Center. Gary Herron photo.

SANTA FE — New Mexico is well positioned to transform the high school experience and outcomes with an expansion of educational pathways to college and career, according to a report released Feb. 9 by the New Mexico Public Education Department and the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation.

The New Mexico Comprehensive College and Career Pathways Assessment Report highlights innovative practices already occurring in New Mexico schools and recommends parallel and interconnected actions that schools, districts, tribes and the state should take to expand these practices statewide.

Doing so would address college and career readiness requirements from the district court ruling in the Martinez and Yazzie Consolidated Lawsuit, which demanded improvements to public education in New Mexico, particularly for low-income students, Native American students, English-language learners and students with disabilities.

PED and LANL commissioned the report to identify and assess college and career readiness initiatives that have been implemented by schools, communities, the state and tribes.

“What New Mexico needs is an all-embracing strategy that weaves together promising local college and career-readiness practices that can be scaled up to every school,” said new PED Secretary Kurt Steinhaus.

The report recommends a comprehensive, three-pronged strategy to support college and career pathways for all students:

  • Career Technical Education — now in the sights for Rio Rancho Public Schools and its new CTE campus, to open in the fall of 2023 — must be incorporated into core academics so every student has access.
  • Every student must have access to work-based learning through internships and apprenticeships arranged by their schools through partnerships with employers. The result would be students graduating with work experience and contacts.
  • Every student must receive personalized support with attention to college and career advising and accelerated instruction in reading, writing and math.

“New Mexico is already doing some of these things and doing them well. But we know that when schools do all of these things together, graduation rates increase and college attendance rates increase,” said Alvin Warren, vice president of Career Pathways and Advocacy for the LANL Foundation.

The report recommends a four-year pilot program to expand comprehensive college and career pathways, building on strengths already present in the state. Results of the pilot would guide the design of a statewide plan that shifts how education agencies and schools approach college and career preparation, and how students are supported throughout their education journey.

The findings come as the New Mexico Legislature is considering a new $10 million investment in expanding CTE.

This funding would provide direct support to districts, state charters and Bureau of Indian Education-funded high schools to implement career awareness and preparation programs. The goal is to give every New Mexico high school student access to rigorous, industry-aligned CTE and workplace experience.

More than 75 percent of New Mexico students involved in CTE have low incomes.

The funding request is included in the massive appropriations bill approved by the House of Representatives and now before the Senate.