7/9/15 Read to Achieve test results improve, but still cause concern

Read to Achieve test results improve, but still cause concern
Only 32 percent of students in program meet standards
By Isaac Groves, The Times-News 7/9/15  
Reprinted with permission.      

How they fared

  • Read to Achieve numbers for Alamance County students this year:
  • 319 students in summer reading camps
  • 56 passed alternative assessment or 18 percent
  • 263 took Read to Achieve test or 82 percent
  • 47 passed or 18 percent
  • 103 students total met standards or 32 percent

Source: ABSS

 More students in this year’s Read to Achieve summer camps met standards to move on to fourth grade than did last year, either by passing a test or alternative assessment.

 Thirty-two percent of the 319 students in the state-mandated summer reading camps met third-grade reading levels compared to a little more than 15 percent in 2014, according to Steve Achey, director of accountability research for the Alamance-Burlington School System.

 The 2012 legislation ended so-called social promotions for third-graders. Students have to pass their End of Grade reading tests or one of several other alternative and second-chance tests to go on to fourth grade.

 Students who did not pass were invited to the three-week summer camps that finished up with another End of Grade test July 2.

 More students at this summer’s reading camps passed “portfolio” tests and Text and Reading Comprehension tests, which generally require students to read a selected book or text and answer written and oral questions about a part of it.

 Only a small number passed the alternative tests last summer, according to ABSS.

 Students who did not pass any of the tests will not necessarily be held back from fourth grade. Many will be in “transition” classrooms geared toward getting them up to a fourth-grade reading level by November.

 Unless students are behind grade level in other subjects as well, they will not necessarily have a failed grade on their records.

 A lot of research in education shows third grade is a key year. Research in North Carolina shows the passing rate for third-grade reading tests in 2004, about 80 percent, is practically identical to the graduation rate for students in the same age group in 2013.

 It is often said students are learning to read until the third grade and reading to learn from then on. Those who are not caught up by third grade, studies show, fall behind and have a hard time catching up. Getting them caught up is also time consuming and expensive for schools.

 Read to Achieve has been controversial because its difficult rollout in the 2013-14 school year badly tied up third-grade classrooms. The state took some of the pressure off districts by giving more options for alternative tests.

 The state also made the summer camps optional and shortened them from six to three weeks.

 Local camps went from June 16 to July 2 in five ABSS elementary schools. There will also be test dates July 28 and Aug. 13 for students who did not take the July 2 test.