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‘Gift of Literacy’

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This week, Gov. Susana Martinez is rolling out details of how she plans to spend $8.5 million earmarked for early childhood education.

Specifically, the money will be used to hire up to 52 reading coaches throughout the state, who will help support teachers in kindergarten through third grade. The money will also be used to buy new tests to help teachers assess students’ reading levels, and to make literacy resources available to parents and teachers, both online and in hard copies. The online materials will be available in English and Spanish.

“Learning to read is the key to success, and it can often determine whether a student grows up frustrated and discouraged or empowered and confident,” Martinez said in a written statement.

According to a news release from Martinez, the new tests for young readers will help students who move frequently between schools and districts. With all schools using the same test, students who move between schools will not lose instruction time in the transition.

“New Mexico’s student population is fairly mobile, and teachers receiving students from another district will be able to know right away where a new student is struggling and excelling in their literacy learning,” according to the news release. Districts currently use a variety of different tests.

The online learning resources are intended to help parents get involved in their children’s literacy.

“In order to ensure that reading instruction doesn’t stop when the bell rings, parents will have access to strategies that are being implemented in their child’s classroom, allowing them to explore various ways to help their child learn at home,” according to the release.

The state Public Education Department will also require all school districts and charter schools to outline a plan for how they will identify and assist struggling readers, as well as how they will improve teacher training on early literacy. A statewide literacy plan will also be adopted.

“Our children, their parents and future generations of New Mexicans can’t afford to wait,” said Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera. “The gift of literacy not only helps our children do better in the classroom, it gives them a valuable skill they will need for the rest of their lives.”

Martinez rolled out the initiative, which she dubbed “New Mexico Reads to Lead” with visits to six different schools around the state.

The website that will host reading resources for teachers and parents will be up by June, and reading coaches and tests will be in use by the time school starts in the fall.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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