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Data & Information

New Mexico

New Mexico has a state virtual school (Innovative Digital Education and Learning New Mexico, IDEAL-NM), two fully online schools, one large district program, and other smaller district digital learning programs. IDEAL-NM served 2,823 course enrollments in SY 2013-14, and Albuquerque Public Schools’ eCADEMY Virtual High School served over 8,400 course enrollments during SY 2013-14.

Fully online schools

State rules allow for creation of fully online, multi-district online schools, but states that asynchronous distance learning, “shall not be used as a substitute for all direct, face-to-face student and teacher interactions unless approved by the local board of education.” Charter schools in New Mexico can be authorized either by the Public Education Commission (PEC) of the Public Education Department (PED) or district boards of education. In 2013, controversy arose over the authorization of the New Mexico Connections Academy (NMCA). The initial NMCA application was denied by the PEC, but after a series of appeals it is open for SY 2013-14. Under New Mexico charter school law, schools can contract with providers for services, but cannot contract for the management of a virtual charter school. The NMCA Governing Council contracted with Connections Academy to provide curriculum and services for NMCA. NMCA is capped at 500 students for SY 2013-14, but may expand to as many as 2,000 students at the end of its first five years in operation.

In 2012, the first statewide virtual charter school, New Mexico Virtual Academy (NMVA), was authorized by Farmington Municipal Schools (FMS). NMVA enrollment is capped at 500 students annually by FMS. Enrollment caps are negotiated between the virtual charter board and the authorizer, and are not set by law or regulation.

State virtual school

IDEAL-NM was created by the 2007 Statewide Cyber Academy Act (SB209). IDEAL-NM had 2,697 course enrollments in SY 2012-13, a 3.5% decrease from SY 2011-12. IDEAL-NM has provided a statewide learning management system (LMS) through which online K-12 and state agency training courses are delivered since 2008. As of August 2013, 52 of New Mexico’s 89 school districts (58%) and 20 charter schools operate independent domains within the LMS to create branded web portals to access all of the courses offered by IDEAL-NM at no cost.[1] Districts can also create content for their own blended and/or online programs in the LMS. In addition, a statewide eLearning Service Center supports the LMS for all the education and training entities. IDEAL-NM also provides an eLearning portal that acts as a clearinghouse for online courses and programs offered by New Mexico higher education institutions, K-12, and state agencies.

[1]  IDEAL-NM; retrieved July 1, 2013,


District programs

School districts offering online programs include Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Hobbs, Taos, and Roy, as well as the Gilbert L. Sena Charter High School. Sena Charter High School switched from a commercial online provider to the IDEAL-NM portal, LMS, and courses. Albuquerque Public Schools’ eCADEMY is an alternative school with a comprehensive blended learning program serving K-12 students using IDEAL-NM, the National Repository for Online Courses (NROC), and self-developed content

Online learning policy history

2007: SB209/HB201  created the statewide Cyber Academy provided through IDEAL-NM; the Distance Learning Rule of the New Mexico Administrative Code sets distance learning guidelines The Distance Learning Rule, New Mexico Administrative Code Title 6, Chapter 30, Part 8, establishes requirements for distance learning programs taken for credit by students enrolled in a school district or charter school, and sets forth implementation of statewide elearning courses via IDEAL-NM. It specifies that school districts cannot restrict student access to online courses. The distance learning rules allow for creation of full-time, multi-district online schools. In 2009-10 several provisions of the 2007 High School Redesign bill (SB0561) became effective with implications for IDEAL-NM and other online learning providers.

2008: Distance learning rules approved in 2008 set requirements for IDEAL-NM; the rules also allow public schools (including charters) to provide online learning courses to students in any district as long as there are written agreements in place between host and resident districts. Districts must develop processes that allow students access to online courses. The local school where the student is enrolled approves and registers students for online courses and pays course fees. The distance learning rules allow for creation of full-time, multi-district online schools.

2011: SB427  provides students in failing schools the option to choose online alternatives, with funding for those courses coming from the underperforming districts. “The parent of a student enrolled in a public school rated F for two of the last four years has the right to transfer the student in the same grade to any public school in the state not rated F or the right to have the student continue schooling by means of distance learning offered through the statewide or a local cyber academy. The school district or charter school in which the student is enrolled is responsible for the cost of distance learning.” The law defined criteria for rating schools including adequate yearly progress (AYP), student growth and graduation rates. Ratings were to be developed and published by the PED beginning with SY 2011-12, but debate over the criteria used to identify failing schools has delayed implementation. As of September 2013  there is no timetable for implementing the requirements. Although AYP is only one criterion for the school rating, 718 of the state’s 831 schools (86.4%) did not met AYP in 2011, and 77% failed to meet AYP the previous year, indicating that a large percentage of New Mexico students would have a choice in their public school. However, online choices for students in grades K-5 will remain limited even for those in failing schools because IDEAL-NM and district online programs offer online courses only for grades 6-12.


last updated October 20, 2014

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