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New Mexico invests in prekindergarten literacy software

May 11, 2021 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico officials are rolling out a new platform that will track progress among preschool children to better prepare them for kindergarten and make it easier for parents to keep tabs.

School, state, and legislative officials trained teachers on the program Monday in a Zoom call aired from a Santa Fe hotel, according to a contractor who is providing the software. The tool provides a 15-minute daily curriculum for young children.

After the coronavirus pandemic forced schools to turn to remote learning, the state experienced a 20% decline in prekindergarten enrollment and a 12.5% decline in kindergarten enrollment, according to state Public Education Department statistics cited in a recent report from the Legislature.

To prepare 4-year-olds for kindergarten, officials who oversee early childhood education and K-12 are partnering up to get the tool into parents’ hands. The initiative will cost around $875,000.

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“Parents will also have access to the backend data, so they can hop in anytime and see how their child is doing,” said Kim Fischer, spokeswoman for Waterford.org, the early childhood education nonprofit that secured the contract.

She estimates around 10,000 children will have access to the tool, which will be required for teachers to use in the vast majority of districts this fall. The orientation Monday followed a limited rollout this spring.

The Early Childhood Education and Care Department says it believes that children will also have more access to in-person programming than in 2019 after being at half-capacity last year because of the pandemic.

“ECECD is also expanding our Summer Jump Start program that works with incoming kindergarteners in public, private, and tribal preK programs (previously it was only open to private preK programs) focusing on school readiness, early literacy, and social emotional skills. Our summer nutrition program serving children across the state will be operating at full swing as well,” said spokesman Micah McCoy, in an email.

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Attanasio is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.