The “Read to Achieve” program was implemented in the 2011-12 budget to ensure that North Carolina’s third grade students are reading at grade level before being promoted to fourth grade. Studies show that reading levels of third graders can be an indicator of future educational success; for example, one in six children who are not reading proficiently in third grade fail to graduate from high school on time, four times the rate for children reading proficiently in third grade. Last year, only 45 percent of North Carolina’s third graders passed grade-level reading standards.
The Read to Achieve program provides that if a student is not proficient and does not qualify for a “good cause exemption” (limited English proficient students, students with learning disabilities, etc.) the student may enroll in a state-funded Summer Reading Camp/Workshop. Once the camp has been completed, the student may be re-evaluated for promotion to the fourth grade. Superintendents can make final decisions on whether or not a child qualifies for a good cause exemption. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction allows an LEA to measure proficiency in the following ways:
- Pass the Beginning of Grade Test
- Pass the End of Grade (EOG) Test
- Pass the state developed alternative assessment
- Pass at a 70 percent rate the 36 passages in the student portfolio. (It is not recommended that all students be required to complete the portfolio as defined by the General Assembly. Based on judgment, teachers should determine which students will need the portfolio passages.)
- Pass a State Board of Education approved assessment, developed at the local level
House Bill 230 makes clarifying changes to the Read to Achieve program, including providing flexibility for school districts when implementing reading camps, alternative assessments, and student reading portfolios. Additionally, it clarifies that students with individualized education programs (IEPs) would be exempt from mandatory retention and allows flexibility in implementing summer reading camps, a key request of many school districts. The new law also provides that the State Board of Education implement literacy and mathematics screening throughout North Carolina schools by the 2015-2016 school year.