Smaller Schools

Issue Summary News Coalition of Supporters Santa Fe Case Study What Others Are Saying Policy Report Take Action On This Issue

Legislative Update

Smaller SchoolsDuring the 2009 legislative session, Think New Mexico championed legislation to incentivize the state’s school districts to build smaller schools. The bill (Senate Bill 255) passed the Senate 28-11, but ran out of time in the House. In 2011, Think New Mexico’s legislation (Senate Bill 2) was unanimously approved by both the Senate Education and Senate Finance Committees. In 2012, Think New Mexico assisted the Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education in enacting a resolution that limited the size of new elementary schools in the district.

Think New Mexico is continuing to advocate for smaller schools in New Mexico at both the state and school district level.

Issue Summary: Smaller Schools

Smaller SchoolsNew Mexico’s graduation rate ranks second from the bottom of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Only 54.1% of New Mexico’s children graduate from high school, compared with a national average of 70.6%. An average of 77 students drop out each school day across New Mexico—nearly 14,000 per year.

Decades of research have shown that smaller schools have higher graduation rates, higher student achievement, lower levels of student alienation and violence, and higher levels of satisfaction among students, parents, principals, and teachers. Small schools also dramatically improve the performance of low-income children, which helps to narrow the persistent achievement gap.

The most effective high school size, according to the research, is 600-900 students. Yet, in 2007, more than two-thirds of New Mexico ninth graders entered high schools with populations larger than 1,000 students, and nearly a third entered high schools with more than 2,000 students.

Small schools are not only better for students, they also cost less to build and operate. Researchers have found that the most efficient schools are those serving 300-900 students. Schools larger than this experience “diseconomies of scale”: inefficiencies and increased costs that result from increases in bureaucracy, security, and transportation. In addition, if the operational cost of a school is calculated “per graduate” rather than “per student,” small schools are substantially more efficient than large schools because their dropout rates are much lower.

The capital costs of small schools can also be far less per student than those of large schools if the small schools are designed to take advantage of community educational resources like gymnasiums, pools, libraries, and sports fields, rather than duplicating these facilities. Several New Mexico charter schools have successfully applied this community-based model, at a savings of millions of taxpayer dollars.

Think New Mexico recommends that the legislature and governor enact legislation limiting the size of new schools built in New Mexico at no more than 400 students for elementary and middle schools and no more than 900 students for high schools.

News Coverage: Smaller Schools

newspapericon-smallRead an opinion editorial published in the Rio Grande Sun about why the small school of Velarde Elemntary should remain open • June 25, 2015

newspapericon-smallRead a letter to the editor of the Albuquerque Journal about what the top ten performing schools in the state have in common: their small size • August 9, 2012

newspapericon-smallRead an editorial from the Albuquerque Journal about the benefits of smaller schools. • May 28, 2012

newspapericon-smallRead a column by Deming Headlight columnist Win Mott on the importance of small schools for the students and community of Deming. • June 30, 2011

newspapericon-smallRead an article from the New Mexico Business Weekly on the support for smaller schools from all across the political spectrum. • February 18, 2011

newspapericon-smallRead an editorial from the Albuquerque Journal about how smaller schools help New Mexico’s most vulnerable students succeed. • January 15, 2011

newspapericon-smallRead an article in Capitol Report New Mexico about how much higher the graduation rates are in New Mexico’s small schools than in its large schools. • September 30, 2010

newspapericon-smallRead an opinion editorial on why smaller schools are a cost effective education reform, authored by Paul Gessing of the libertarian Rio Grande Foundation • January 10, 2010

newspapericon-smallRead editorials from the Albuquerque Journal and the Santa Fe New Mexican advocating for smaller schools as part of the solution to New Mexico’s dropout crisis • August 2009

blogicon-smallRead syndicated columnist Jay Miller’s blog entry on Think New Mexico’s small schools initiative • March 11, 2009

blogicon-smallRead La Jicarita News article on 2009 smaller schools bill • February 2009

radioicon-smallListen to KSFR Santa Fe Public Radio “Journey Home” story on smaller schools • January 8, 2009 (mp3, 14:36)

newspapericon-smallRead New Mexico Business Weekly story on Think New Mexico’s smaller schools reform initiative • December 5, 2008

tvicon-smallWatch KWES NewsWest Channel 9 report on Think New Mexico’s smaller schools initiative • October 22, 2008 (1:57)

newspapericon-smallRead Albuquerque Journal editorial in support of Think New Mexico’s smaller schools reform initiative • October 11, 2008

newspapericon-smallRead Santa Fe New Mexican editorial endorsing Think New Mexico’s smaller schools reform initiative • October 17, 2008

blogicon-smallRead Mario Burgos blog entry on Think New Mexico’s smaller schools reform initiative • October 14, 2008

radioicon-smallListen to KUNM Public Radio report on small schools • October 9, 2008 (mp3, 1:45)

newspapericon-smallRead Santa Fe New Mexican article on Think New Mexico’s smaller schools reform initiative • October 5, 2008

newspapericon-smallRead Union County Leader article on Think New Mexico’s smaller schools reform initiative

Santa Fe Case Study

Learn More About Think New Mexico’s Campaign to Make Small Elementary Schools Accessible to Every Child in Santa Fe

newspapericon-smallThink New Mexico joined with legislators to question the legality of the Santa Fe Public School District’s diversion of bond money to consolidate small schools – read our opinion editorial in the Albuquerque Journal NorthJuly 25, 2010

radioicon-smallListen to KSFR Santa Fe Public Radio story on Think New Mexico’s work on small schools in Santa Fe • July 20, 2010 (mp3, 5:09)

radioicon-smallListen to Fred Nathan’s presentation to the Santa Fe Public School Board about why the district should not consolidate its smaller schools, broadcast on KSFR Santa Fe Public RadioMay 7, 2010 (mp3, 1:51)

radioicon-smallListen to KUNM Public Radio report on Think New Mexico’s proposal to save Santa Fe’s small schools • April 21, 2010 (mp3, 8:05)

newspapericon-smallThe Albuquerque Journal editorializes against the Santa Fe school district’s plan to close small, neighborhood schools

radioicon-smallListen to Fred Nathan’s presentation to the Santa Fe Public School Board about why the district should not consolidate its smaller schools, broadcast on KSFR Santa Fe Public RadioMay 7, 2010 (mp3, 1:51)

newspapericon-smallRead Think New Mexico’s plan to make small schools accessible to every child in Santa Fe, as it appeared in the Albuquerque Journal North, as well as the paper’s supportive editorial

 

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