New state requirements, aimed to prepare North Carolina students for rigorous Common Core standards, are starting for third graders this year.
“Common Core is so much more rigorous, and for North Carolina to keep up with that, something more strict has to be put into place,” said Jamie Little, K-6 curriculum coordinator for Ashe County Schools.
At a meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 17 at Mountain View Elementary School, Ashe County School officials held a presentation to the parents of third grade students about the state’s new standards for reading. A new end of grade (EOG) test could keep students from entering the fourth grade, if they fail.
“This is going to be the first group (of third graders) that has to figure out what is going on,” Little said.
Last year, the General Assembly passed HB 950, which is the North Carolina Read to Achieve legislation. The bill requires third grade students to be reading at or above their grade level before they can be promoted to the fourth grade.
“The big part of this law is that it is the end of social promotion,” Little said. “That means we are not going to be allowed to pass your child on to the fourth grade because they just worked hard this year. We have to show they are proficient readers.”
Little said all counties and systems will have to abide by these rules.
If a student fails the first time, they can have a retake test during the last 10 days of the school year. If they fail the second time, students will then be required to attend a Summer Reading Camp where they must complete a writing portfolio or take the test a third time.
“Summer Reading Camp is required for those who fail the test twice,” Little said. “If (the parents) refuse to have their child attend, then (the students) will be retained.”
In Ashe County, students who do not pass will still be placed in fourth grade classrooms, with intensive intervention to help on their third grade reading skills. While they will remain in a fourth grade classroom, students will still have a label of being a third grader in the school’s computer system.
The student would then have another chance to take the test in November, if they pass, the label would then be removed.
Some exemptions are provided for those who speak limited English or are on an individual education plan. Also, if students were held back once, they won’t be held back a second time.
Mountain View principal David Blackburn said that the school will provide mock tests for the students to prepare them for the assessment. The school provides every opportunity to prepare students for testing.
“(The legislation) changes the way we have to look at accountability toward our students as they learn to read,” he said.
Some aspects of the new program remain unknown, including how much funding the state will provide and how the summer camps will work.
“We will have a much better idea by July when we know how many people (the summer camps) will affect,” Little said.
Ashe County Schools are providing more meetings for parents to learn about the new changes in the testing. Blue Ridge Elementary had their meeting Thursday, Sept. 19 and Westwood Elementary will have a meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 24.