Tracking is out of fashion these days, but Santa Fe high schools’ three tracks give students a choice, reports KRQE News 13. Some take the most rigorous academic classes to apply for highly selective colleges, others aim for a less-selective college or university and some plan to pursue a technical career, go to community college or enter the military.
The third track engages students who’d otherwise be at risk for dropping out.
Welding teacher Al Trujillo said offering hands-on training is an important tool in keeping Hispanic students in school.
“Here, they learn a skill and their education becomes more valuable to them,” he said. “Without something like this, they may end up having a low-paying, low-skilled job.”
Moises Venegas, founder of the Quinto Sol research group, worries about lower expectations for Hispanic students.
Students who are pursuing a career in the military or a tech college are told to take a “workplace readiness” course, but they are not encouraged to take any AP classes and they take fewer language and science classes.
New Mexico raised graduation requirements this year, requiring all high school students to take four years of math and enroll in at least one AP or honors course or college-credit class. State policy — all students will be ready for college or a career — means that career-oriented graduates “need the same abilities as a college freshman,” says Melissa Lomax, head of the state’s career technical and work force education bureau.
Melecio Sanchez, 17, who just finished his junior year at Santa Fe High, has already received one welding certificate that allows him to work with heavy metals. He has a job with a welding company in Bernalillo and said he may attend college after he works and saves some money. He has several uncles who are welders.
“I like it because you get to work with fire, and you learn how to build things,” he said. “You will also make good money doing this.”
New Mexico students lag in reading and math skills compared to the national average; graduation rates are low. I prefer Santa Fe’s honesty to the pretense that all students will take the same classes and graduate with college-level skills.