Students who entered third grade this year became the first batch of students to be affected by the state’s new Read to Achieve law. The law, which requires local districts to retain students who do not test proficient on the end of grade reading test, was predicted to cause nearly 50 percent of third grade students in Macon County to fail third grade at the end the school year.
Monday night, Carol Waldroop, director of Elementary Education for Macon County, informed school board members that the district had been approved for a one-year waiver that allows the district to view alternative assessments in addition to the end-of-grade test when determining which students should be retained at the end of the year.
“We think the retention rate would be about 50 percent statewide if the state board had not added some alternatives to the original law besides the portfolio,” said Waldroop.
The new North Carolina state law requires that third graders who are not reading at a proficient level on the end-of-grade test be given additional support. If a child is not proficient on the end-of-grade test in reading at the end of third grade, several options are available.
Initially, the child will be given the opportunity to retest. If the child is not proficient on the retest, then he or she can attend a free summer reading camp to help improve his or her reading skills.
Following summer reading camp, the child’s reading will be assessed again. If the child’s reading is proficient, he or she will be eligible for promotion to fourth grade. If the child does not score proficient, he or she will be placed in fourth grade classes the following year with a third-grade retention label. Ninety minutes of uninterrupted reading instruction will be provided daily in these classes. The child will be eligible to retake the reading test in late October to achieve a mid-year promotion and have the third grade retention label removed. The child will remain in the same fourth grade class for the entire school year and continue to receive the uninterrupted reading instruction throughout fourth grade to support ongoing improvement in reading skills.
While the basics of the law still stand, Waldroop informed the board of education that instead of only looking at the way a child scores on the end-of-grade tests, Macon County can now use alternative testing measures already being utilized in the districts. “Third graders can complete a portfolio if they don’t pass the EOG test in June,” explained Waldroop. “A successfully completed portfolio can take the place of Summer Reading Camp and can allow a student to move on to fourth grade. Students who don’t finish the portfolio before the end of third grade can complete it during Summer Reading Camp or in the transitional 3/4th classroom. Because these passages are written on a 4/5th grade reading level and are so difficult the state has now approved other alternatives to the portfolio for struggling students.”
Waldroop explained that the state has already approved the portfolio waivers that she presented Monday night. The alternative tests include assessments measurements already being used in the district such as Dibbles and Stars. By having more assessment models to review, Waldroop and the board of education believe that a more accurate reflection of student achievement can be measured.
“I believe now with being able to use alternative assessments in addition to the end-of-grade tests, if a child is retained, it is because a child truly needs that intervention and not because they performed poorly on one single test,” said Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin.
The board unanimously voted to allow for the alternative assessments to be used.