Wake County schools preparing for summer reading camps

Posted by T. Keung Hui on December 20, 2013 

Plans are moving forward with developing summer reading camps that could potentially have a couple of thousand Wake County third-grade students who want to avoid being held back next fall.

As noted in today’s article, Wake County school leaders are encouraging parents to have their children read during the winter break. The impetus is the state now requiring third-grade students to pass the end-of-grade reading exam to be promoted.

“At no time in our school system’s history has it really been more important for our kids to hold on to and continue to make gains in their literacy skills,” Deputy Superintendent Cathy Moore said at Thursday’s news conference.

But for those third-grade students who fall short of proficiency, details are being worked out for how they’ll be served at six-week summer reading camps.

If Read to Achieve had been in place for the 2012-13 school year, more than 4,800 Wake third-grade students would have been at risk after scoring Level 1 or Level 2 on the reading EOG. Wake did better than most with a 57 percent proficiency rate in third grade compared to 45.2 percent statewide.

For this school year, the state put in place a beginning of year reading exam for third-grade students. It’s like the old pre-test that third-grade students took.

Moore said they’re still analyzing the results of the beginning of year exam.

Some third-grade parents may have been surprised at the results of the beginning of year exam. But Sherri Miller, the school system’s literacy director, said parents should keep in mind the exam is testing what students should know by the end of the school year.

Look for elementary schools across the district to hold meetings for third-grade parents in January. Wake has also created a Parent’s Guide to Read to Achieve.

The state Department of Public Instruction has put out a guide for how school districts should implement the Read to Achieve program that had been pushed into law by state Senate Leader Phil Berger.

There are five “good cause exemptions” for which third-grade students could be promoted even if they don’t pass the reading EOG. For instance, if you’ve already been retained more than once, they’re not going to hit you for a third time.

One of the “good cause exemptions” is for students to demonstrate proficiency through a reading portfolio. If they haven’t yet already done so, Wake teachers will soon be compiling portfolios for students who are in danger of not passing the EOG.

One of the things that’s uncertain is how many students might fall under one of the exemptions.

If the non-proficient student can’t get a good cause exemption, then it’s off to a reading camp. If the parent says no to the camp then the student gets retained in third grade.

The state is supposed to fund school districts to operate the camps.

The camps are free for parents. Wake hasn’t yet decided if transportation will be provided. It will probably be needed considering how the passing rate for low-income third-grade students was lower than for their more affluent peers.

The camps are supposed to run for six to eight weeks and at least three hours per day.

For traditional-calendar students, that means the camps will be held during summer break. Miller said that Wake will go with a six-week camp because the day will be longer than three hours.

The locations for the camps haven’t been set yet. But Miller said they’ll be held in regional locations as opposed to being at every elementary school.

Obviously Wake’s year-round students don’t have six-week breaks. Their camps will be different.

The camps for year-round students will be held during their track-out periods. James Overman, Wake’s senior director of elementary school programs, said they might have to begin offering the camps to some at-risk students even before they take the reading EOG.

If you pass the reading EOG or a new state-designed Read to Achieve test after the camp, problem solved. You go to fourth grade.

If you fail after the camp, you’re retained in third grade but will have an opportunity for a mid-year promotion to fourth grade.

(There may be some additional posts today, but the blog will be on hiatus next week.)

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