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New Mexico’s Early-Learning Efforts Show Promise, Pitfalls, Report Finds

August 21, 2017
Marva Hinton
Education Week

A new report on early-childhood programs in New Mexico finds that investments in prekindergarten have resulted in stronger reading and math skills for children who participate in the program.

Analysts released the accountability report Wednesday, August 16. 

The study by  the state’s Legislative Finance Committee found that in addition to raising reading and math scores, the state’s pre-K program also lowered special education and retention rates for participating students. These students also performed better than their peers who hadn’t attended pre-K on standardized tests in the 3rd grade, and this was true for both students from low-income families and their more privileged classmates.

The National Institute of Early Education Research (NIEER) found that New Mexico spends more on pre-K per child than the national average of $4,976. The state ranks 20th for state spending at $5,233 per child. It also enrolls more 4-year-olds in pre-K than the national average, 33 percent versus 32 percent, which ranks it 16th in the nation.

The report also found that students who attend the state’s K-3 Plus program made significant learning gains over their peers who didn’t participate. K-3 Plus is an extended school year program for students in kindergarten through 3rd grade who attend high-poverty schools with a large number of at-risk students. It’s designed to give these students a “jump start on the new school year.” The report found that when this program is combined with pre-K students are able to close the achievement gap by the time they enter kindergarten.