New Mexico kids' reading scores are better than those in only one other state or district nationwide, according to a new report.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress report released last week shows that only District of Columbia students ranked worse than New Mexico fourth- and eighth-graders in reading. Twenty-one percent of New Mexico fourth-graders scored proficient or above in reading; 22 percent of eighth graders scored proficient. The tests were administered last spring.

New Mexico has most recently been ranked 32nd nationwide for educational achievement overall, so the NAEP results suggest the state's situation is more dire than has been apparent in recent years. The eighth-grade scores actually represent an improvement over last year's results, however. Three states—California, Louisiana and Mississippi—performed in the same bracket as New Mexico for both grade levels.

In a press release announcing the results, New Mexico Public Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera is quoted saying that the state "continue[s] to fail our children by telling them to wait before we'll teach them how to read." PED spokesman Larry Behrens didn't immediately return calls asking for clarification. Gov. Susana Martinez signed a bill during the last legislative session requiring public elementary schools to teach reading based on scientifically verified curricula, but Santa Fe Public Schools so far has not seen improvement in its reading scores through the use of a PED-approved reading program [cover story, Sept. 21: "Left Behind"].