Starting this June, third graders in North Carolina’s public school system will face an added anxiety when they take end-of-grade exams administered at the end of the school year: Pass, or risk being held back a year.
Enacted during the 2012 legislative session, the Read to Achieve program mandates public school third -graders either receive a proficient score on their EOG exams, pass a retake or an alternate exam if they fail the EOG, or complete a portfolio to continue to fourth grade the next school year.
School districts are also required to offer summer reading camps to struggling students, providing remedial instruction for four hours per day, four days per week.
New Hanover County Schools Director of Instructional Services, Dr. LaChawn Smith, said in a Jan. 7 interview that while the state will provide additional funding for the summer reading camps, how much funding is still an open question.
“We have no start date for the summer camps, or sites set aside, because we don’t know what the funding will be,” Smith said, noting the state officially requires implementation beginning Jan. 6. “Our district has been given no specific date for when we will know.”
Read to Achieve was introduced to the state legislature as part of Senate Bill 795, also known as the Excellent Public Schools Act. It became law as part of an appropriations bill, House Bill 950, which was passed July 2, 2012, over then Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto.
Completion of a student reading portfolio or a passing score on an alternate reading test at the end of the reading camp will allow students to continue to fourth grade with their peers. Those students who either fail to complete a portfolio or fail the test will be enrolled to repeat third grade, although additional options like transitional classes will exist to allow students to return to their original grade.
MaryPaul Beall, principal of Wrightsville Beach School, said Jan. 6 she believes the summer reading camps are an effective approach to addressing a lack of reading proficiency.
But she also said while district administrators are still hammering out the details, the new rule will add pressure both to students and their teachers.
“[The teachers] are like anybody that is getting something new,” Beall said. “You want to know the process, [and] you want to know what the outcome is.”
In addition to funding, Smith said many other questions remain to be answered, such as how to schedule a child whose parents have a custody arrangement that precludes his or her attending one of the summer camps in his or her district.
“Or what if a child is highly successful in the passage but does not past the EOG? How are those weighed?” she asked. “I think those are questions that parents will have … and we want to make sure this is not harmful or seen as negative to our children.”
Parents, teachers and school administrators at Wrightsville Beach School will have an opportunity to discuss the upcoming changes, along with other changes to curriculum, at a parent-teacher curriculum discussion night for all grades at the school at 6-7:30 p.m. on Jan. 14. Beall said grade-wide discussions would occur in separate groups, but staggered to allow parents of multiple children to speak with all their teachers.
Multiple inquiries to the offices of state Senator Thom Goolsby, R- New Hanover, who co-sponsored the Excellent Public Schools Act were not returned.