I am starting this blog because I have concerns about NC's Read to Achieve Program. I believe it is potentially harmful to our children. I have many issues with this program, but my major ones are:
1. The amount of learning time being stolen from NC's 3rd graders for testing.
2. The negative impact on children's desire to read and learn that will result from the unreasonable amount of testing and pressure.
3. The decision for a student to be retained should be reached by the parents, teachers, and administrators who know the child and how they are performing. The idea of legislating achievement through testing is ridiculous.
I pulled together the information I found about RtA and posted it below to try and get the word out to parents of 3rd graders. Below are the articles I have found so far. Parents, guardians, teachers, please let me know if you find anything I can add.
An explanation of Read to Achieve is lengthy and confusing, but I'll try to summarize. It is part of a new NC state law. It requires 3rd graders to pass the EOG (End of Grade) test (only about half of last year's 3rd graders passed the EOG). If they don't, they get one more chance at another test. If that is also failed, they are required to attend 6 weeks of summer school. If they don't attend (or don't pass) summer school, they are basically retained and not promoted to 4th grade. There is another option to these high stakes tests, though. Students can get an exemption if they pass a portfolio. For the portfolio, students have to pass a minimum of 36 tests over a 12 week period. Some lawmakers and the DPI are trying to minimize concerns about the amount of instructional time that will be spent on testing, saying only the students at risk of failing the EOG should do the portfolio. But according to the Beginning of Year test 3rd graders took, that is 77% of our students. Many districts are going ahead and giving the portfolio assessments to all students so they have a backup if a child were to not pass those 2 high stakes tests (and who can blame them?).
Wake County Article
“This seems like torture to a struggling reader,” school board member Jim Martin said.
The portfolios are meant for students who are considered to be at risk of failing the end-of-grade exam. But school officials said they don’t want to run the risk of missing students who might fail.
“We’re covering our bases, regrettably, with this truckload of a portfolio,” Superintendent Jim Merrill told the board.(I would like to note 36 would be the minimum number to complete the portfolio. If a student misses more than 1 question on any given test, she/he would have to take another one on that standard.) Diane Ravitch's Blog Post"The time spent on testing is time that should be spent reading, writing, listening, and learning. As the old chestnut goes, you don’t fatten a pig by weighing it."
“I want a stay in Read to Achieve for the current year because the readability level of the selections that I have seen are not appropriate,” said board member Susan Cox.
"Only one passage selected was on a third-grade reading level. Six of the passages were between a fifth- and ninth-grade reading level." (Mooresville schools tested 10 out of the 120 passages and this is what they found)
Cox said administering assessments that are beyond the reading level they are assessing is counterproductive. The assessments put students and teachers under unnecessary pressure.
“We’re saying to our students: ‘You’re not measuring up. You’re failing,’ when in essence, it isn’t the student—it’s the assessment in and of itself,” Cox said.
Kannapolis School board asks for waiver for Read to Achieve
Some of the alarming information in these articles:
"In addition, the Read to Achieve program is time consuming. According to the Board of Education’s calculations, implementation will take 180 minutes a week, which means teachers will lose 2820 minutes of reading instruction a semester. That adds up to 30 percent of a semester’s total instruction time." (Note: I believe they are including other required testing, such as Reading 3D in that number)
"The board also feels the summer reading camps were poorly planned."
Board member Rhonda Lennon was more blunt, citing the adage that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
“This looks like third-grade hell to me,” she said, calling the program “a heavy-handed mandate.”
“It’s really a nightmare,” Ashe County Schools Director of testing and accountability Phil Howell said of the new third-grade reading program. “It’s an injustice, but it’s also state law, and (the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction) was given a directive and they have to carry it out.”
“What happens is if you’re the best reader in the class, you’re still going to miss 36 days of reading instruction,” Blackburn said. “And if you luck up and pass the first time, you’re still missing out on 36 opportunities that you could have had to be in front of a great teacher and had instruction. It’s not a good thing for kids.”
And by asking only five questions, Westwood Elementary School Principal Jennifer Robinson said the test reduces the margin of error for students.
“You have to get four correct,” Robinson said. “I have a third grader that I feel is a pretty good reader and on any given night I feel she could miss more than one question. You might think, oh, we have this portfolio and I’m so glad we’re doing it, but if you can’t read enough to pass that (EOG), it’s going to be real hard to pass that portfolio.”
"Late last week, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools learned that students who scored at third-grade level on that test will be eligible for promotion without having to worry about the barrage of tests they encounter during the rest of the year" (Note: This is referring to the BOG, Beginning of Year test 3rd grades took. According to one of the articles above, 77% of students were at risk of not passing the EOG according to the BOG. So, an overwhelming majority of 3rd graders would still be on track to take the portfolio assessments) I haven't found this information anywhere else and would like to know if this is true statewide. Update: This has been confirmed. Please see comments below and this post for more information.
Article describing a parent meeting at one school
Article describing a parent meeting at one school
“The portfolio requires your child to read up to 120 reading passages…(They) have the potential to lose 20 percent of instruction to complete their reading portfolio,” Brinson said.
Even then, there is still no guarantee that they will pass or demonstrate proficiency, she added.
“I can’t tell you what to check, but if my child were in third-grade, it would be a big ‘no’ because I want my child taught, not tested all day,” Wolf Meadow Principal Adam Auerbach said to the parents.
Auerbach added later that his goal is to get every parent to opt out of the portfolio.
“The kids that are doing well don’t need to do the portfolio,” Auerbach said. “If (they are) not (doing well), they’re not going to pass.”
I emailed my local representative, Harry Warren, earlier this week. He also expressed concerns about Read to Achieve. He has been told by DPI, "going forward, local LEAs have the opportunity to develop their own modifications which they can utilize, upon DPI approval." These are supposed to be modifications to the portfolio. I haven't found this information anywhere else and wanted to include it. Students are already taking the tests for the portfolios (they had to go ahead and start to fit it in before EOGs), so learning time is already being lost. The longer the state takes to make changes or end this insanity altogether is just more learning time lost and frustration for our children.
Update: Click here to join Facebook group: NC Parents and Teachers against Read to Achieve Legislation