Education secretary says reading problems go undisclosed in New Mexico

New Mexico 3rd graders promoted...

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera says new statistics show most parents are not being informed properly when early reading difficulties arise.

The Public Education Department found that fewer than 5 percent of parents in New Mexico received necessary written notices when third graders failed to meet reading proficiency standards at public school throughout the state.

“This confirms what we’ve long suspected: New Mexico’s parents aren’t getting the information they need to support their kids. Instead of telling parents that their child isn’t on grade-level, they’re kept in the dark and schools are passing their kids onto the next grade. That is unacceptable,” New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez said. “It’s time to give our parents the information they deserve and our kids the support they need to read and succeed.”

The agency says that parents of those students should be required by schools to sign a waiver before their children advance to the next grade.

The department found that 6,815 New Mexico students in third grade during last school year did not attain proficiency in reading. 6,477 of those students advanced to fourth grade anyway.

In all, 338 letters were sent to parents concerning whether their child should remain in third grade.

Currently, state law requires schools to notify parents if their child in first through seventh grade is not academically proficient in reading. Parents are required to be notified and sign a waiver to move their child onto the next grade if they haven’t reached the reading proficiency required.

Last year, 400 third graders in Las Cruces were passed on to the fourth grade, despite not being able to read at the fourth grade level.  The district admits the data is concerning. So ABC-7 went to a third grade classroom to see how the students were doing.

Holding books with their little hands, third graders inside Rebekah Jaramillo's classroom read out loud with their kindergarten buddies. They do that once a week. Jaramillo says it's greatly improved her students fluency and test scores. The district says when they notice a child is struggling with reading, they put them on an academic improvement contract until they're at grade level. Jaramillo says communication with the child's parents is also key. She says third grade is a critical year to determining a child's future.

"This is the year when you find out if they're successful," Jaramillo said. "In third grade they're more then likely they're going to be successful for the rest of their education. If they're not, then those are the kids we need to focus on and make sure they're not going to be drop outs later."

"Retention is a big decision to make and it's not a magic bullet so it works for some students but many things have to be considered,"Janet Candelaria, director of elementary instruction, said.

The district says they have to consider whether or not the student is progressing in other subjects, even if they're not progressing in reading. The data was compiled from a variety of assessments students took throughout the year. The district is working to improve these numbers for next year.


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