Ask the Superintendent: How Read to Achieve affects students

Dec. 09, 2013 @ 10:09 AM

Last month, families of third-graders received reports of how well their children are performing in reading and literacy. The reports are part of the state’s new Read to Achieve program, which I first wrote about in the September “Ask the Superintendent” column. Since the reports were released, we have received more questions about what Read to Achieve is and how it will affect our students.
Read to Achieve was created by the state General Assembly last year and took effect this year. Its goal is that every student shall read at or above grade level by the end of third grade. Except for some limited exemptions, students must reach this goal to be promoted to fourth grade.
Q: Of all the tests and assessments given to third-graders, which ones are used to determine if a child is promoted?
A: There are three ways for a child to meet the standard for Read to Achieve. The first is by passing the End of Grade test in reading. If a child does not pass the EOG test, they may complete a Reading Portfolio, which involves answering questions from a series of short reading passages aligned to the standards, or they may take a Read to Achieve assessment that is similar to the EOG. These options would be offered in the next school year, or as part of the Summer Reading Camp (see the next question). Passing any of these would make a child eligible for promotion to the fourth grade.
Q: How can we prepare at home for these tests?
A: You can help your child prepare for testing by being supportive and encouraging, maintaining a pleasant home environment, encouraging your child to stay focused and reassuring him or her if your child is disappointed after taking an assessment — there will be plenty of opportunities to improve and succeed. The most important thing, however, is to support your child as a reader throughout the year.
Q: How can I do that?
A: There are many things you can do to help. The reports that third-grade parents received, “mCLASS Reading 3D Home Connect Letters,” have information about your child’s results and suggest some simple home activities based on your child’s areas of need. You and your child’s teacher should go over the report together. Some of the things that may help your child include reading to them and having a conversation about favorite parts of the book or interesting ways the author wrote something, or even writing notes to each other about a book your child is reading. There are more tips at our website at www.dpsnc.net/programs-services/academics/read-to-achieve.
Q: If my child is not recommended for promotion, what are my options? Do I have any?
A: If your child is still not proficient following a retest, you may choose to enroll him or her in a Summer Reading Camp. If your child achieves reading proficiency during the camp, as measured by testing or a complete reading portfolio, he or she will be promoted to the fourth grade. Non-proficient students that do not attend the summer camp or remain non-proficient will be retained in the third grade and receive additional classroom support in reading instruction, with an opportunity for mid-year promotion. If you do not choose for your child to attend the summer camp, he or she will have to repeat third grade.
Q: Is promotion based strictly on test scores, or can a teacher override the decision?
A: One of the major components of the law enacting Read to Achieve is the elimination of “social promotion.” A student must pass the EOG, the portfolio, or the Read to Achieve assessment to be promoted. There are only a few “good cause” exemptions such as Limited English Proficient students who have received less than two years of English as a Second Language instruction, students with disabilities, and students who have received reading intervention and have been retained more than once. All of these students will continue receiving additional support in reading.
We have high expectations of all of our students; Read to Achieve shines a brighter spotlight on those expectations for our third-graders. Educators, parents and our community must work together to ensure that every third-grader is a strong reader. With high standards must come a high level of support, and that is what we will provide.
Dr. Eric J. Becoats is superintendent of Durham Public Schools. He answers readers’ questions in his column the second Tuesday of each month. Submit your questions to superintendent@dpsnc.net.