New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Education Secretary Veronica Garcia today announced six new statewide education initiatives during a visit to Sandia High School in Albuquerque.

"When I took office, I pledged to be New Mexico's educational governor -- giving our students, teachers and schools the opportunities and tools for success," Richardson said. "We're seeing tremendous payoffs on our investments, and these new initiatives are a creative way for us to continue improving graduation rates, classroom instruction and student and community involvement."

The six new initiatives follow:

1. Education is the KEY to a New Mexico's Driver's License: Beginning next year, 8th grade students will need to demonstrate nearing proficiency or proficiency and beyond on the 8th grade New Mexico Standards and 9th graders will have to have 90 percent attendance to be eligible for a New Mexico Driver's License. Failure to attain either benchmark will result in a 6 month delay in eligibility. Failure to reach both benchmarks will result in a one year delay. Students who dropout before the driver's license eligibility age of 16 will also have to wait a year to receive their driver's licenses based on the New Mexico law that states the legal dropout age is 18.

2. Elective Credit for Environmental Protection Community Project: High School students could earn up to one credit, half a credit per semester, by engaging in environmental conservation service learning projects like community recycling, water conservation, xeriscaping, and research.

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