Martinez Needs a Math Coach!  52 Reading Coaches to 100,000 students doesn’t add up.

“Up to 52” reading coaches are being hired by the New Mexico Public Education Department to help K-3 students state-wide learn to read, according to an announcement from Gov. Susana Martinez’s office last week. 

Those reading coaches should be incredibly busy if they hope to have an impact in New Mexico’s 89 school districts. The governor stated in last week’s announcement that “80 percent of our 4th graders do not currently read proficiently….” 

The “Read to Lead” education initiative will inject $8.5 million into New Mexico’s public schools, according to the governor’s office. That money will also go toward a website with “reading resources for teachers and their parents,” to be up and running by June. Parents who are waiting for that website may be interested to know that a Google search for “helping children learn to read” presently yields about 46 million results.

Reading coaches would seem a wise investment. When Hanna Skandera was appointed New Mexico Secretary-Designate of Education by Martinez, much was made of the “Florida model” championed by Skandera as a public-schools official in that state. 

ISPAC has been dubious of the “Florida model” (and in that we are not alone), but part of turning the percentage of literate fourth-grade Floridians from 53 percent to 73 percent over the first decade of this century was the hiring of two thousand reading coaches, according to multiple reports from when Skandera was hired in New Mexico. 

Fifty two is a lot fewer than 2,000. The governor says her reading initiative is meant to target “roughly 100,000” K-3 students in the hundreds of elementary schools around this state. Won’t the reading coaches be stretched too thin? 

And why is the announcement “up to” 52 reading coaches? Because there might be fewer?

This sounds bogus. If Gov. Martinez believed in the effectiveness of reading coaches, she would not have gone into the state budget earlier this year to delete the words “for reading and instructional coaches” from the line “The general fund appropriation to the public education department for intervention in D and F schools is contingent on the department using the funds for reading coaches or instructional coaches in D and F schools as identified by the A-B-C-D-F Schools Rating Act.”

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