A bill that stops third-graders from being promoted to the fourth grade if they do not read proficiently cleared the House Education Committee, Saturday. After three days of hearings, the Committee voted 10-1 to pass the measure, which will head to the House floor this week.
The substitute bipartisan bill combines two similar pieces of legislation, one introduced by local lawmaker Rep. Nora Espinoza, R-Roswell, and sponsored by Sen. Mary Jane Garcia, D-DoÃ±a Ana, and the other by Rep. Mary Helen Garcia, D-DoÃ±a Ana.
â€œBoth bills did the same thing,â€â€ˆEspinoza said in a phone interview from Santa Fe, â€œ and since it was two peopleâ€”Â one was a Democrat and one was Republicanâ€” we thought â€˜letâ€™s join forces for the betterment of the students.â€™â€
The bill, now called the House Education Committee Substitute for House Bills 21 and 100, states that parents would no longer be allowed to sign a waiver that exempts third-graders from being held back if the student did not meet reading standards. However, a student can only be held back for the same grade twice.
â€œThis is a huge victory for those who are trying to change the expectations in our schools,â€ Espinoza wrote in a press release. â€œStudents who arenâ€™t proficient in reading will get the help they need, but no longer will they be passed from grade-to-grade without the required skills.â€
Gov. Susana Martinez and Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera supported the measure in a press conference earlier this week for halting the practice of â€œsocial promotion,â€â€ˆor promoting public school students to the next grade if they lack required basic skills.
The Public Education Department was not able to estimate the number of third-graders who would be held back, according to an earlier bill analysis prepared by the Legislative Finance Committee.
The LFC did note, however, that of the 25,000 third-graders in the state for school year 2009-2010, 42.6 percent scored below Proficient on the New Mexico Standards Based Assessment. Sixteen percent of third-graders managed to scrape by as reading proficient, scoring at the lowest level.