As a student in the New Mexico public school system, I think it is important to speak on behalf of the students whom it will concern and voice my opinion regarding House Bill 126-A.
If passed, the bill would eliminate the requirement of Algebra 2, two electives, a class in career and technical education (CTE), and a language, lowering state-required credits from twenty-four to twenty-two. While some may argue that this would encourage students towards graduation and provide more freedom, there is a lot of evidence that it will have the opposite effect. The bill would set our youth at a disadvantage by discouraging them from graduating and not preparing them for life after high school.
An article written by the New Mexico Teachers of the Year in the Albuquerque Journal says it best; “…House Bill 126 takes us in the wrong direction for many reasons, but most of all because it sends a message that we don’t believe in our students. There are no paths to success from there.” The teachers explain that sending the message to students that they don’t believe in us will lower our chances of graduating. In addition, the Gates Foundation surveyed drop-outs nationwide asking why they left the system. It was concluded that the main reasons were lack of challenge and relevance. By passing the bill, courses would only become less challenging and less relevant, leading to increased dropout rates. While the goal of the bill is to urge students toward graduation, the message it sends to the students and the lack of challenge and relevance would end up lowering their likelihood of graduation.
Those who make it to graduation will be faced with another issue; that of unpreparedness. Many students who plan to pursue a career in STEM would be without an Algebra 2 credit, majorly setting them back. In addition, CTE classes provide students with valuable skills that core classes cannot. Our state currently faces shortages in health care and education professions. By no longer requiring CTE classes, students are even less likely to pursue vital careers due to their lack of education and unpreparedness. Lowering the graduation requirements would have a detrimental impact on our state.
On the other hand, good arguments can be made regarding the benefits of the bill. Many, including Kevin Meerschaert of KSFR, argue that students would benefit from gaining increased freedom over their education. They would have more control over the courses they take, encouraging their personal interests. It would also encourage students who plan to enter the workforce directly out of high school whereas the current requirements are more directed at students planning to pursue a higher education. The bill could increase students’ sense of freedom, motivating them to graduate. However, this theory isn’t backed by any evidence pointing to the sense of freedom motivating students to graduate, weakening the argument.
In conclusion, while arguments can be made towards the passing of the bill, they are outweighed by the arguments against it. The bill would likely discourage students from graduating and, if they do graduate, would cause unpreparedness in higher education and the workplace. But this doesn’t mean it is hopeless.
The National Graduation Equity Initiative presents an alternative option to assess whether a student is ready to graduate: a capstone project. This would be a self-driven project catering to all cultures and languages, offering more encouraging guidance toward graduation. New Mexico’s future is at risk. Our youth isn’t being properly prepared for the life ahead of them. Effective action must be taken to improve public education.