Reading Program Cut From Local Schools
Neither the Albuquerque nor Santa Fe school districts will be receiving funds associated with a popular reading program because of changes made by the New Mexico Public Education Department. “Reads to Lead,” a $12.5 million state program providing reading specialists to assist kindergarten through third-grade students, offers funding to school districts that have shown improvements on standardized tests or have created a plan for the future that has been approved by PED. In May, 30 districts and 11 charter schools were automatically funded by the program because they had shown sufficient growth on standardized test scores. Another 19 districts and one charter school received funds based on their applications to the program, which were reviewed by a panel of independent education experts. Cobre Consolidated Schools, near Silver City, received $521,149—the largest sum given to an entity—despite having only approximately 1,290 students—the smallest number of students under an entity's care. According to APS school officials, the loss of funds could impact up to 24 schools in the district who might have to go without a reading coach. APS received $1.065 million in Reads to Lead funding in 2016 and $565,200 in 2017, but is receiving nothing in the current fiscal year. Christopher Ruszkowski, acting secretary of education, says the results are not politically motivated, but were arrived at through the use of a rubric provided to independent reviewers by PED. The results of the evaluation were that APS had not shown significant results in its student performance despite receiving state funding. APS reading scores have dropped 2 percentage points since 2015 according to PARRC test results, and third-grade reading scores fell by 1.6 percentage points between the 2016 and 2017 school years. But school officials say the application process and requirements haven't been consistent. According to a report published by the Legislative Education Study Committee, PED has changed the application process for the Reads to Lead program four times since its inception in 2012. Launched by Gov. Susana Martinez, it began as a competitive grant, but was changed in 2014 to provide funding to any district that sent in an application and met minimum requirements. The competitive process was reinstated in fiscal year 2017 and is still in place.