New Mexico Governor Looks to Improve Reading Skills

Is local government intervention necessary to improve proficiency in reading? It could be when your state is nearly dead last in education. Such could be the motivation behind a new bill proposed by the governor of New Mexico, a bill that calls for funding a new reading initiative. Does this $17 million proposal have a chance of getting approved?

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reading skills initiative new mexico

Early Intervention

More money for pre-K literacy programs. Hiring reading coaches. After-school reading programs. New reading assessment tools.

These are the highlights of the plan proposed by Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico in early December 2011. Much of the emphasis was on the early-intervention aspects of the plan at the time of its announcement. These aspects might have been inspired by the governor's trip to the city of Artesia, where in a third-grade classroom many of the students were reading beyond the grade level.

The teacher there utilized an intervention approach that impressed Martinez, so perhaps this is why she focused on those features when she spoke of the proposal in December. But another reason for that emphasis could be that those aspects overshadow a rather unpopular component of the proposal.

Ending Social Promotion?

A portion of the bill that remains unpopular with parents and even some officials is one that calls for holding back third-grade students who cannot read at their grade level. Senator Mary Jane Garcia of New Mexico's Dona Ana County admitted to withdrawing her support of the proposed bill after parents flooded her office with calls to speak out against this feature of the plan.

However, other legislators, including Senator John Sapien of Sandoval County, remained 'cautiously pleased' about the bill.

If passed, the bill would seem to eradicate the provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act that began under the tutelage of George W. Bush in 2001. Over the past several months many states have moved to drop out of the No Child Left Behind education initiative.

National Push for Reading Improvement

The governor's proposed bill reflects national attempts to improve the reading proficiency of students at many grade levels.

In February 2010, President Obama called for states to make changes to math and reading standards. A proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in November 2011 included the Improving Literacy Instruction and Student Achievement Act, which would offer grants to states to help them focus on improving child literacy.

In September 2011, the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program granted $180 million to six out of 35 states that applied for the funding. This marked the first time that U.S. Department of Education grants were used to fund state literacy programs aimed at improving reading proficiency for such a wide range of children (from infants to 12th-grade students).

'Supporting children's reading skills can help students build a lifelong love of learning,' U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a press release announcing the grant awards.

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