New Mexico awards funding to schools to extend learning time
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — More than 101,000 public school students will gain access to a variety of extended learning opportunities beyond the traditional school year starting this summer, Public Education Secretary Karen Trujillo announced Friday.
Reforms approved and signed in April by first-year Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham provided up to $181 million in annual spending for two programs — money that won’t be nearly exhausted during the coming school year. About $76 million has been awarded to schools.
One program is a flexible 10-day addition of learning time to the school year at any grade level, likely to reach some 101,000 students.
A second program, a proven model for lengthening the elementary school year by five weeks, is expected include about 24,000 students for the coming school year, up from 18,000.
State legislators set aside enough money for 90,000 students to participate in that “K-5 Plus” program if school districts, teachers and parents are willing.
By the summer of 2020, Trujillo expects student participation in K-5 Plus to ramp up to 70,000 — closing in on goals set by the Democratic-led Legislature and governor.
Trujillo said there were nearly 60 schools in Albuquerque alone that are adopting K-5 Plus.
“There are a significant number of parents who are interested in taking advantage,” she said, also crediting school districts for striving to quickly take advantage of available state funding.
Lawmakers are fending off a lawsuit and court order that threaten to intervene in state budgeting decisions, after a state judge documented a failure to provide adequate educational opportunities — especially to poor and minority students across the heavily Hispanic and Native American state.
New Mexico school districts and charter schools depend on the state spending for nearly all of their operations.
The complete level of participation in the newly funded programs across five plaintiff school districts was unclear.
Lawmakers and education officials say low-income students consistently miss out on enriching educational activities, and that research demonstrates the effectiveness of more learning time — especially among young students coupled with their year-round teachers.
Deputy Education Secretary Katarina Sandoval said extended learning proposals from school districts include late-summer “bridge” or “jump start” programs before the outset of middle school and high school to establish academic expectations and relationships, mimicking widely adopted college programs. Rural districts are planning outdoor science projects for students that build on existing school relationships with federal fish and wildlife officials.
Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus said his district will offer 10 specialized school sessions on Saturdays to middle- and high-school students that emphasize experiential, project-based learning.
He said brainstorming sessions produced proposals for students to enter a competition to design a future city, combine foreign language studies and cooking with apprentice sessions at nearby restaurants or experiment far ahead of time with writing college-application essays.
“This is an opportunity to make learning more engaging for kids, that’s how I see it,” Steinhaus said.
State education officials say they’ll be learning too — as they study the success of extended learning strategies at hundreds of schools.
“What is the quality of programing — how does it specifically align to the needs of that particular school community?” Sandoval said. “We’ll also be looking at the quality of professional development.”
The K-5 Plus program alone can increase annual teacher pay by 14%, on top of teacher salary hikes arriving in July.
K-5 Plus students can gain 150 days of instruction with their classroom teacher over the course of six years — nearly an additional academic year of schooling.
State lawmakers and education officials say low-income students consistently miss out on enriching educational activities, and that research demonstrates the effectiveness of more learning time with their year-round teachers.
Among school districts that have sued the state over inadequate resources, Santa Fe Public Schools applied for funding for both programs at every eligible school, though implementation requirements could mean a few schools don’t participate this year or receive less than full funding.
Santa Fe district Superintendent Veronica Garia said extending the school calendar will be “an adjustment in mindset” for teachers.
“They put their whole heart and soul into their work,” she said. “When we ask, ‘Would you like to work an additional 25 days,’ many of them are saying that we need a break.”