NMPED Deputy Secretary Katarina Sandoval
SANTA FE — About 60 percent of New Mexico K-12 students will spend additional time in school next year based on preliminary reports of expected participation in the state’s two extended-learning-time programs.
The Public Education Department now expects 191,000 students — out of 317,000 enrolled — to participate next year in either the K-5 Plus program or Extended Learning Time Program. Additional classroom time is a powerful tool to accelerate learning, and the two programs are a core component of the state’s strategy to improve educational outcomes for every student in alignment with the Yazzie-Martinez consolidated lawsuit.
The expected numbers would be a 29 percent increase over last year’s participation rate but far short of the full participation New Mexico legislators hoped for when appropriating an additional $80 million for the programs this year. A proposal before the legislature to make participation mandatory failed to pass, leaving it to districts and state charter schools to decide whether to participate. Fifty-two districts and charter schools declined, and those that opted in could select which schools in the district will participate.
“These are local-control decisions, and we respect that,” said Deputy Secretary Katarina Sandoval, who oversees the extended learning time programs. “We heard from a number of districts that their people — educators, students and families — are just exhausted after this pandemic year, but that in a year, they’ll be in. We’re looking forward to even more participation next year.”
The Public Education Department promoted participation in the extended learning time programs during weekly group calls with superintendents and charter school leaders and individual outreach.
In the end, 127 of New Mexico’s 187 districts and state charter schools opted to participate in one or both of the extended learning time programs, with eight districts that haven’t reported yet.
K-5 Plus adds up to 25 days to the school calendar for kindergarten through fifth grade, while the Extended Learning Time Program adds up to 10 days. Both programs provide funding for districts and charters to extend the regular school year. They are not remedial programs.
K-5 Plus grew out of a K-3 Plus pilot project the Legislature funded in the 2004-2005 school year. The goal was to show that increased time in kindergarten and the early grades narrows the achievement gap between at-risk and other students, increases cognitive skills and leads to higher test scores for all participants.
In its early years, the program required districts and charter schools to add 25 additional days to the beginning of the regular school year, and it required K-5 Plus teachers to continue with the same student cohort in the fall. Those requirements made it difficult for some districts to staff the programs.
This year, Senate Bill 40 gave districts and charter schools more flexibility in implementing the K-5 Plus program by allowing the 25 days of additional instructional time to be added at any point during the school year. The legislation also required that, at schools where a program is implemented, every student must participate. Previously, participation has been voluntary.
The expected participation numbers for the 2021-22 school year are based on a survey that districts and charter schools completed this spring. The first window opened in March and early April; the second window opened in May and closed last week.
Some districts that opted in during the first window of the survey had adjusted participation numbers by the second window due to the results of family and teacher surveys and other community input that is required as part of the budget process. Their budgets will be adjusted to eliminate the extra funding that comes with participation in the extended learning time programs.
Unspent funds appropriated for the two programs reverts to the Public Education Reform Fund, which can be used for future educational purposes.
The 2021 Legislature also funded a two-year pilot project called K-5 Plus Pilot 140. Through that program, selected high-poverty and low-performing schools will add a minimum of 10 Extended Learning Time Program instructional days to the base instructional calendar, offer an after-school program and provide 80 hours of professional development to teachers. Each pilot school must add 45 minutes to each instructional day. The goal is to evaluate how equivalent instructional time affects students’ academic and nonacademic outcomes.