2/26/14 Board approves new third-grade reading tests
By Isaac Groves, The Times-News 2/26/14
Reprinted with permission.
Things are supposed to get a little easier on third-grade students and teachers with some different reading tests the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education approved Monday.
“The thing that really frustrated me was to have parents tell me that their kids … are now afraid to go to school,” board Chairman Tony Rose said. “They’re crying … because they cannot pass these reading assessments that are really at a level that is much higher than they can really comprehend at that age and what they’ve been taught.”
The new tests could let more third-graders move on to fourth grade next year, and let teachers get back to teaching instead of testing.
The state Legislature passed Read to Achieve in 2012. It means third-grade students have to pass End of Grade reading tests to go on to fourth grade, which is an end to so-called social promotions.
There are other ways to get to fourth grade, like retesting.
Another way is a so-called portfolio. Third-graders, all of them, are already taking those mini-tests. They have to answer questions from written passages.
Like a lot of districts, ABSS decided to test all third-graders with those portfolios to take the pressure off the high-stakes EOGs. But the portfolios have turned out to be time-consuming and over the heads of many third-graders. Rose said he blamed the N.C. Department of Public Instruction for encouraging districts to test all students with the portfolios, which were intended only for students who were not on track to pass the EOGs.
Beginning-of-grade tests showed 16 percent of third-graders were already ready for the EOGs at the start of the year, and 28 percent were on track to get there by year’s end. But that left 56 percent to catch up.
On Feb. 6, the state Board of Education granted requests from local school districts, including ABSS, to use different tests.
Board member Steve Van Pelt said the district could be facing “a perfect storm” when students’ families find out they have not passed EOGs and have to go to a summer reading camp or repeat third grade.
The school system seems to have some work to do to avoid that.
A bench-mark test in November, said Steve Achey, ABSS research director, showed 32 percent of third-graders were ready for their EOG tests. There is one more round of benchmark tests to see how students are doing before the EOGs.
Alamance-Burlington schools are already using the different tests so teachers will not have to have any new training to use them and the school system will not have to spend any more money.
Angela Bost, ABSS assistant superintendent for school improvement, said some students would still benefit from the portfolio tests so schools will still use them for some, but not all, third-graders.