Read to Achieve is the state legislation that requires third graders to pass the EOG reading test or an equivalent in order to avoid retention or mandatory summer school. It has turned third grade into a test-prep nightmare across the state. It also threatens to have lasting negative effects on many third graders.
MecklenburgACTS.org is currently working to mobilize parents across North Carolina to press for changes to the program in the 2015 legislative session. If you would like to help mobilize parents at your school or in your community, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read to Achieve contains three fundamental flaws.
1. It requires that children be retained based on test scores. Decades of research have clearly established that in most cases retention does children more harm than good. A decision of such importance should be made by parents and teachers who work closely with children and know them as individuals, rather than by a piece of legislation passed in Raleigh.
2. It makes life-changing decisions based on standardized test scores. While standardized tests can provide useful information, they measure only a narrow set of the skills needed to read avidly and well. When standardized test scores are used in high-stakes decisions such as retention or mandatory summer school, schools often focus all their efforts on the skills the tests can measure. Rather than reading and exploring rich, engaging texts, students at all levels are forced into a dull routine of worksheets and skills practice that diminishes both their love of reading and their interest in school. While the 36 “portfolio” tests created in response to the legislation exacerbated this situation, the fundamental problem lies in the high-stakes use of test scores.
3. It begins its most significant intervention far too late. Successful reading requires a strong foundation at an early age. Rather than imposing penalties in third grade, legislation should focus efforts and funds on providing additional supports for challenged readers starting in kindergarten or earlier.
If members of the General Assembly wish to help North Carolina children learn to read, as well as to reduce out-of-control testing, they need to draw on the experience and advice of North Carolina teachers, students and parents. They should remove the threat of test-based retention, postpone the “portfolio” requirements until a set of non-test-based portfolio items can be developed, and find resources to provide more intensive support for struggling readers in earlier years.
For descriptions of the problems with Read to Achieve, see: