Skandera: Grade 3 retention will boost NM grad rate
NM Public Education Secretary urges lawmakers to pass governor’s third-grade retention proposal to keep future high school student from dropping out of school
ALBUQUERQUE — Policies advocated by New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez must be enacted, or the state’s high school graduation rates could fall after hitting record highs, Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera said in an interview.
Skandera told The Associated Press on Friday that lawmakers should pass the governor’s third-grade retention proposal to halt future high school students from dropping out.
The bill, which faces fierce opposition from Senate and House Democrats, would allow schools to require third-graders to repeat the third grade if they are not proficient in reading.
“About 25 percent of our third-graders cannot read, and of those 96 percent of those who cannot read are being passed on to the next grade,” Skandera said. “When kids can’t read by the third grade they are four times more likely to drop out. That’s compelling.”
Skandera also said the state should continue the governor’s anti-truancy policies and keep the new teacher evaluation system that Martinez enacted administratively with Legislative approval amid objections from teachers unions.
Last week, Martinez announced New Mexico’s public school class of 2016 set an all-time high graduation rate at 71 percent. That’s up eight percentage points since 2011.
According to state numbers, graduation rates also increased for the state’s Latinos, blacks, low-income and disabled students.
But New Mexico’s overall high school graduation rate is still below the 2015 national rate of 83 percent.
Skandera said her goal is for New Mexico’s high graduation rate to reach 80 percent by 2020.
National Education Association-New Mexico executive director Charles Bowyer said there is no evidence that holding third graders back a grade improves their academic performance later.
New Mexico should adopt more early intervention programs to make sure young students who are having trouble succeeding instead of focusing on more rigorous standardize testing for students a teacher evaluation system that said punishes teachers who miss work because of illnesses, said Bowyer, whose group is the union representing most of the state’s teachers.
The union is suing the Martinez Administration to block the teacher evaluation system.
Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, last week warned that the governor’s third-grade retention proposal has little chance at passing in the Democrat-led state Legislature. Martinez has tried and failed to convince lawmakers to pass similar measures in previous sessions.
“If she brings it up again, it will suffer the same fate,” Cervantes said.