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Reading efforts to get $15.5M in funding

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Reading coaches, teacher training and early literacy efforts will get a boost this school year from an infusion of $15.5 million in state money as part of the “New Mexico Reads to Lead” initiative.

The money, announced Monday by Gov. Susana Martinez, is the third iteration of the initiative, which is focused on ensuring students learn to read by third grade.

The state distributed $2.1 million in each of the first two rounds of funding, making the $15.5 million distribution the largest by far.

“We have only half our third-graders reading at grade level, and the other half don’t; that’s unacceptable,” Martinez said. “We’re losing half of our kids, and that is not the way we should operate in our state.”

The most recent Standards-Based Assessment scores show that 55.2 percent of New Mexico’s third-graders read at or above grade level.

Every school district in the state will receive at least $50,000 for the coming school year, and some districts will receive more money, based on applications they submitted to the state about how they would spend the money.

Albuquerque Public Schools is set to receive the most, at just over $1 million, and 36 districts will receive some additional money on top of the base $50,000.

The state funding is meant to be spent primarily on reading coaches, teacher training and other programs to improve early literacy.

The first round of funding was distributed last summer, and Martinez touted the results from those districts as evidence that the extra money made a difference. Last year, third-graders statewide improved their reading scores by 2.9 percentage points. Among the 12 districts and one charter school that received first-round “Reads to Lead” funding, third-grade reading proficiency was up 7.8 percentage points, Martinez said.

Some of the funding will be used at the state level to pay for 14 regional reading coaches to help teachers improve their practices. State money also will go toward teacher training and common early reading assessments. The idea of the assessments is to identify struggling readers early and to ensure that students are tested with a common yardstick if they move from one district to another.

Martinez said the program is a vital tool in helping to bring up New Mexico’s reading proficiency.

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