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The report was conducted Sept. 21 by the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee.

KOAT Albuquerque logo KOAT Albuquerque 9/27/2021

Students in New Mexico are behind when it comes to public education.

The topic is the latest discussion by elected members from the state's Legislative Finance Committee (LFC).

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According to the committee's report, which was released on Sept. 21, students have lost 10 to 60 days of instruction due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Analysts say the lost days are widening the existing achievement gap and setting students even further behind academic norms. Before COVID-19, at-risk students were already more than half a year behind.

The report also notes that teachers and school districts weren't utilizing available resources to provide students with extra help.

Mary Parr-Sanchez, president of the New Mexico National Education Association, said she's frustrated with the report.

"Educators and school districts have to deal with real children and not numbers, test score numbers, and data dumps," Parr-Sanchez said.

She adds the learning gap for students in New Mexico has been an issue well before the pandemic, and teachers are struggling to keep children learning.

"Many educators have retired," Parr-Sanchez said. "In May of 2021, we had a 40% increase in retirements. It was second only to 2014."

Instead of focusing on standardized tests and encouraging extended learning time programs (ELTP), Parr-Sanchez recommends teachers develop relationships and personal connections with their students.

She says it's a task that can not only improve a student's school performance, but their mental health, as the state continues to fight against COVID-19.

"Those kinds of things will help kids heal from the pandemic because we know that kids are grieving right now. They’re grieving loss of family members, maybe even parents or siblings," Parr-Sanchez said.

In addition, she says school districts should adopt a "Community Schools" framework, a concept that promotes addressing needs among the school's community and partnering with local organizations to help provide additional services for children.

"We’re going to have to think in a different way than what we’ve done before," Parr-Sanchez said. "For me, the community schools framework is a way that allows schools to build on what they do well and to work with partners.”

National research indicates the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated existing inequities in student progress, disproportionately affecting younger students, non-white students and students from low-income families.

READ THE FULL STORY:The report was conducted Sept. 21 by the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee.

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