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NM legislative panel OKs end to social promotion

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SANTA FE — The House Education Committee passed a bill Tuesday that would retain third-grade students who are reading below grade level and provide reading supports for struggling students.

The vote fell along party lines with the committee’s seven Republican members voting in favor of the bill, and its six Democratic members voting against.

“Retention is a last resort but it has to be on the table,” said Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, who sponsored the bill.

Those who spoke in favor of the bill during Tuesday‘s hearing said it is wrong to pass students who are behind in reading. They said social promotion has been a failed policy.

Skeptics of the bill questioned whether retention would work, and some said it would actually be harmful to students, and could increase dropout rates.

“The evidence shows mandatory retention hurts children and doesn’t increase reading proficiency,” said Gail Evans, legal director at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. Evans said the focus should be on literacy programs.

The bill does contain language about providing reading interventions for struggling students. However, some skeptics voiced concerns about funding for the interventions.

Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan, said there is $37.7 million in the Gov. Susana Martinez’s budget for the reading interventions.

Gloria Rendon, executive director of the New Mexico Superintendent’s Association, said superintendents fear funding for these interventions could dry up in future years. She noted the funding is coming “below the line,” meaning it will be disbursed by the Public Education Department and not through the regular per-pupil funding formula.

The so called third-grade retention bill has been a hot topic of debate in previous legislative sessions.

For more on this story see Wednesday‘s edition of the Journal.