This story is a staff report from The Paper.

Back to School
Back to School, 2017. Courtesy, APS Facebook

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s elementary school students may be falling further behind, according to a review of preliminary academic data by legislative analysts that shows less than one-third of students are proficient.

While New Mexico students tested poorly before the pandemic, the latest data suggests the outcomes are even worse as the percentage of those considered proficient and learning at grade level dropped from 37% to just 31% last spring.

The report estimates students lost between 10 and 60 days of instruction. New Mexico already has fewer school days than many other states, and some rural schools are only in session four days per week.

Last year, students faced school closures, were absent more frequently, and had limited access to online learning.

Nonpartisan policy advisors suggested the lost learning time is even more concerning because around half of school districts rejected funding for extra school days after pushback from parents and staff.

The extra school funding is part of a year-long effort by the Legislature to increase learning time while allowing communities local control.

Some legislators said Wednesday that the state should consider mandating the extra days, which add between 10 and 25 days to the school year. Others called for more research and exceptions for Indigenous holidays important in many school districts.