Here’s an impressive statistic — a high school without one dropout. The 3-year- old Arrowhead Park Early College High School, part of the Las Cruces Public Schools district, claims that distinction.
It’s a high school with a focus on academics and a clear mission: to educate students who want to earn an associate’s degree or graduate with marketable skills and who are willing to forgo some of the amenities a regular high school offers, including extracurricular activities and interscholastic athletics.
You won’t likely find a track and field team at Arrowhead, but you will find study tracks in pre-engineering, architecture and drafting, criminal justice, creative media technology and health care occupations.
There is no admission test, and students are chosen by lottery. No cherry picking.
The demographic of the Arrowhead student body, now at 335 students, is close to the district’s — 67 percent Hispanic, compared with 75 percent district-wide, and 43 percent economically disadvantaged, compared with 57 percent districtwide. Nearly two-thirds come from families in which no one else has a college degree.
The school came about from a push by a partnership of local businesses and educators to help improve the district’s graduation rate, just 54 percent in the 2007-2008 academic year. It’s improved to 71.2 percent.
While other high schools in the state offer dual credit classes starting in the junior year, Arrowhead has taken the concept a step further by bringing in motivated ninth-graders. It is similar to Albuquerque Public School’s Early College Academy.
Some of the benefits of dual credit, according to the Legislative Finance Committee and the University of New Mexico’s Center for Education Policy Research, are higher academic performance, higher high school graduation rate, higher college graduation rate and shorter time to graduate.
That can equate to less cost to students and their families, higher earning potential for students and less cost to the state.
Gov. Susana Martinez is high on the concept and wants to see it expanded to other school districts. She is seeking $500,000 from the Legislature to open four or five more college high schools around the state.
The Legislature should step up and approve the governor’s request to get the ball rolling.
Arrowhead looks like a template for success that should be replicated. Kudos to the Las Cruces’ district, Superintendent Stan Rounds and the business community for taking the initiative.
— Albuquerque Journal