State Demographics

  • Schools
    Total Enrollment 334,345
  • Total Enrollment
    Schools 884
  • Economically Disadvantaged Students
    Economically Disadvantaged Students 73.1%
  • Students with Disabilities
    Students with Disabilities 15.8%
  • English Language Learners
    English Language Learners 15.8%
  • Students attending Urban Schools
    Students Attending Urban Schools 45%
  • Students attending Rural Schools
    Students Attending Rural Schools 18%
  • Graduation Rate
    Graduation Rate 71.1%

Data source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Common Core of Data (CCD). Graduation Rate data are from 2016/17; all other data are from 2017/18.

State Story
District Stories

State Story : March 2020 – April 2021

March 2020

School Closures

Dr. Ryan Stewart had served only 7 months in his appointed position as the Secretary of Education before the Governor announced all K-12 public schools would close the following Monday to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 community spread.

Initial Decisions and Approach
  • Decisions should be based on keeping students, educators and families safe and be informed by the best available science and data.
  • Students should return to school as soon as it is safe, as remote learning is not optimal for all students.
SEA and LEA Role Delineation
  • Based on a state-wide approach.
  • State decisions and guidance informed by LEA input.
  • Baseline mandated requirements were co-created with health and science experts.
Supportive Partners or Resources
  • State leaders, districts, CCSSO, and other professional agencies provided external support.
  • State-level support was well-organized through the Governor’s office, with an emphasis on cross-agency collaboration.
  • Being part of the Governor’s cabinet greatly helped the Secretary connect to departments like Homeland Security and the Department of Health.
Ryan Stewart
Ryan Stewart Secretary of Education

"We're not on pause right now. Our kids are still counting on us. Our parents are still counting on us. We still have things that we have to move forward and advance as part of a state agenda, even in the middle of this uncertainty."

— Ryan Stewart , Secretary of Education

"The Governor has always stressed the need for us as secretaries and leaders of our agencies to not work in silos and the importance of finding ways to create better service lines for New Mexicans across all of our agencies. I think when we get into a pandemic like this, that ethos and that expectation certainly is incredibly helpful when everyone really does have to come together and collaborate on what the response is going to be."

— Ryan Stewart , Secretary of Education

July 2020

School Re-Opening

New Mexico convened a School Reentry Taskforce made up of 32 diverse stakeholders to devise guidelines and protocols for students and staff to safety reenter school buildings. Resources and guidelines can be found online from the New Mexico Public Education Department.

Re-opening Approach
  • The NM Department of Health and the Governor initiated reentry decisions.
  • SEA focused on creating a “new stability” and moving forward to serve schools, students, and families.
  • SEA referenced previously established “strategic pillars” and considered if its management philosophy needed to change.

"Certain things have to move, and you can't physically be in the room at all those times to make all those decisions, and so some of that had to be, 'I want to set some parameters about what we need to accomplish together as a team, and then I need to trust you to move that forward in your lane,' and so I think we had a number of folks who stepped up across the leadership team, and in multiple layers of the organization, too."

— Ryan Stewart , Secretary of Education

What Comes Next

Next Steps
  • Make sure what was put in place is working by using data systems to track progress.
  • Address broadband infrastructure issues.
  • Build a library of resources that can help educators through the crisis.

"There was a need to make sure that we were thinking about every student being connected with broadband and having a one-to-one device program. That certainly needs to be a part of our work going forward as well as thinking about what it looks like from a funding and legislative standpoint to have this as part of a whole child education.”

— Ryan Stewart , Secretary of Education

August 2020 – December 2020

Re-Opening Plan Implementation

In early August 2020, Secretary Ryan Stewart advised LEAs that school reentry guidelines would lean on data across key indicators for safe in-person schooling. This was made possible by data-sharing and benchmarking from New Mexico’s Public Health officials.

Status of School Models
  • Elementary schools were open for face-to-face instruction when health metrics were favorable, and hybrid when not.
  • Secondary schools remained primarily remote.
  • Students with special needs were served in person to the extent possible in small groups of five to one.
  • Schools in hard-hit tribal communities remained remote and received numerous supports from the state.
Cover of Ring the Bell Return to In-Person Learning Reentry Guide

"I think the very hardest hit community here in New Mexico has certainly been our tribal communities, particularly in the Navajo Nation. Early in the pandemic, they saw some of the highest transmission rates, highest death rates, and also tend to be the areas where we have the least infrastructure for broadband to keep students connected."

— Ryan Stewart , Secretary of Education

January 2021

Recover and Rebuild

January 2021 found Secretary Stewart prioritizing the needs of the most vulnerable students and families. This required focusing on the academic and social-emotional needs of students, rethinking how to address those needs, and investing recovery funds to create equitable instructional access for all students.

Ryan Stewart, the Secretary of Education

Recover and Rebuild Section Two

Priorities (January 2021)
  • Assessing what was learned during the first semester of educating during a pandemic.
  • Preparing for the 60-day legislative session.
  • Obtaining more refined income data to better identify the needs of low-income students and families.

"I think a lot of our priorities as we go forward [will be influenced by what] we learned from this first semester. Right now we have much more robust data on the practices we put in place, what worked, and to what extent those practices are containing the virus."

— Ryan Stewart , Secretary of Education

Recover and Rebuild Section Three

Planning Learning Recovery
  • Navigating opposing views about learning recovery needs.
  • Providing professional development on both academic and social-emotional learning.
  • Acknowledging the technology skills acquired by students and teachers during the pandemic.

"As state leaders we have a major role to play in framing the conversation because I think at one extreme you have the sentiment that nothing has been learned; that from the time you shut down schools nobody has made any progress whatsoever. And then you have the other extreme, which is 'look this happened, but we have adjusted, and kids are fine. Let us just go back to what we did before as soon as we can safely do that, and until then, we will stay remote.'"

— Ryan Stewart , Secretary of Education

Recover and Rebuild Section Four

Rethinking Assessment and Accountability
  • Emphasized the need for assessment to:
    • Be implemented in a safe environment,
    • Inform instruction and interventions, and
    • Allow for local flexibility and decisionmaking.

Recover and Rebuild Section Five

Funding Strategies and Priorities
  • Advocating for family income tax relief.
  • Addressing the "digital divide."
  • Offsetting air quality upgrade costs.

"We put forward some what we think are bold and innovative new strategies; adjusting our funding formula to create a family income index in partnership with our Tax and Revenue Department. In addition to putting more money into the schools that disproportionately serve low-income students, it is also an innovative model of working with our Tax and Revenue Department to redefine how we think about income status."

— Ryan Stewart , Secretary of Education

Recover and Rebuild Section Six

Lesson Learned: Managing Communication
  • Help agency partners understand the moving parts behind certain decisions.
  • Carefully consider what is urgent and what can wait.

"We have had to coordinate with other agencies in a much different way than we have in the past; agencies that do not necessarily have to deal with hundreds of independent entities, each having a different board and being able to decide and implement very quickly. I think one lesson learned for us working across the government is to really understand when we must make changes, what timelines, and what conditions require collaboration. Is it an emergency or can we give it 2 or 3 more weeks?"

"We tried as quickly as we could to get guidelines out for how we were going to operate in these pandemic times. And as much as you can try to communicate on the front end, things will change. We know how hard it is to change, especially when you are a large school district or even a small one. We had to make some decisions, sometimes very, very quickly on things needing to be implemented very, very quickly in ways that were incredibly difficult for schools and districts."

— Ryan Stewart , Secretary of Education

April 2021

Planning for Summer and Next Year

Reflecting on In-Person Learning
  • The state engaged in a gradual process of reviewing health metrics to slowly and methodically open up schools and keep them open.
  • Data shows that the state’s mitigation and containment measures worked.
  • Schools began to open more fully, and by the end of April 2021, all schools were fully open.