NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – More than half of New Mexico students are expected to participate in extended school years next year. Despite the pushback, it’s getting from some parents and educators, the Public Education Department, and some lawmakers are saying even more students should have a long year.
“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,” PED Secretary Ryan Stewart said in a press release.
“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,” PED said in a press release.
Districts had the option to participate in two programs in which they would receive funding for extended school years. According to the PED, 52 districts and charter schools declined, and those that opted in could select which schools in the district will participate.
Participation is mandatory for students whose schools opt for the extended options. Early numbers show about 60% of students will have extended school years next year. For some lawmakers who wanted those extended school years to be mandatory, it’s a good start.
“I think 60% is a good number for moving forward. I’m pleased about that and hopeful about the future of having it be not voluntary and having a way to phase in a longer school year for everyone,” Sen. Mimi Stewart (D), President Por Tempore, said.
The K5 Plus program adds up to 25 days to the school calendar for kindergarten through fifth grade, while the Extended Learning Time Program (ELTP) adds up to 10 days for elementary, middle, and high schools. It’s unclear how many schools opted for which program, but according to the PED, about 162,015 students will have an extra 10 days next year. That’s up from the 141,622 students who had to do the ELTP this year. According to the PED, 22,093 students will have an extra 25 days next year through the K5 Plus program. That is up from the about 15,225 who participated in the program the year before.
When first introduced, bills made the extended school years mandatory for districts. But after receiving pushback from parents and educators, it was made optional. Albuquerque Public Schools, the state’s largest district, sent a survey to staff and parents. 60% of respondents opposed the extended school year options and the district said 30% were in favor. Some parents argue students don’t need more school days, they need the school days they already have to be more productive. Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto, who wants the extensions to be mandatory, agreed.
“I think it’s a combination of the two. I think we need to up our game statewide in terms of the quality of time students spend in the classroom. But, I think we also need to increase the amount of time students are in with a teacher and in an educational environment,” Sen. Ivey-Soto, (D-Bernalillo County), said.
Through a third program, K-5 Plus Pilot, 6,934 students will have longer school days but not additional days. It is a two-year pilot program.
“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,” PED said in a press release.
In APS, 15 of its schools that are currently participating in extended school years are set to continue them next year. It said eight additional schools are interested in having extended school years next year.
“I just want to give my appreciation to the school districts, teachers, the principals that are working a longer school year next year for 60% of our students that’s a huge number so I’m grateful that we’ve got plenty of districts that are trying to extend the school day next year,” Sen. Stewart said.