Caldwell schools seek options to promote third-graders

Mar. 11, 2014 @ 05:05 PM

Students in the Caldwell County Schools will have three more chances to prove their reading proficiency by the end of third grade, if the state approves a request made Monday by the county board of education.

Under the 2012 Read to Achieve law, implemented this year, students have to prove their proficiency in reading to be promoted to the fourth grade. They prove it by making a “3” or higher on end-of-grade tests or meeting one of several exemptions set by the state by the end of third grade.

The school board is asking the state to approve three alternative assessments.

If approved, the changes would mean fewer students would have to complete reading portfolios or attend local summer reading camps — exemption options that have caused backlash across the state among educators and parents.

The three new assessments being requested in Caldwell have all been approved for use in other districts — and they’re all based on programs already being used in every elementary school in the county.

“We really do believe that this will be a much more true, accurate picture of our third-graders’ reading ability,” Superintendent Steve Stone said.

Students could be promoted by achieving “Level P” on the Reading Text Reading Comprehension program, a 70 percent or higher on the Caldwell County Schools’ end-of-year reading benchmark assessment, or a normal curve equivalent of 50-plus or an instructional reading level of 3.5 or higher on the STAR reading program.

Read to Achieve was designed as an attempt to end “social promotion,” the practice of promoting a student to the next grade along with the student’s social group, regardless of whether or not the student has learned all that was needed.

Since its implementation this fall, Read to Achieve has seen a variety of tweaks and changes from the state. It has been, Stone said, a “moving target.”

“There’s been a lot of information out there and a lot of angst on the part of school systems on how to implement that,” he said.

At its February meeting, the State Board of Education gave 30 school districts the right to use local tests to prove third-graders’ reading proficiency and allowed other school districts to submit requests to do the same.