Adams Elementary in Cary kicks off reading challenge

aspecht@newsobserver.comJanuary 28, 2014 

  • What the law requires

    Under new state law, a third-grade student who scores at Level 1 or Level 2 on the end-of-grade reading exam given in May and June can be retained.

    Students may still be promoted if they fall under one of five “good cause exemptions,” such as having already been not promoted twice, having a disability or having a reading portfolio of their work that shows they’re proficient.

    Students who don’t qualify for a “good cause exemption” will be placed in a free reading camp. The camp for traditional-calendar students will run from six to eight weeks during summer break. The camp for year-round students will be held during their track-out periods.

    Students will automatically be held back if their parents refuse to let them attend the camp.

    Students who pass after the camp will be promoted to the fourth grade. Students who fail will be kept in third grade and get additional assistance with a chance to be promoted midyear.

    Staff writer T. Keung Hui

— Adams Elementary School students sat on the floor of the gym, laughing at one man: Doug Hooper.

The school’s teachers and administrators typically discourage this kind of behavior.

But who can blame them when their gray-haired, clean-shaven school principal dons a blond wig, gold earrings and a fluffy fake goatee?

Hooper dressed up as TV personality Guy Fieri and moderated “Minute to Win It”-style contests between students and teachers on Friday in an effort to build excitement for the school’s “reading challenge.”

If Adams Elementary students read for a combined 1 million minutes by May 23, they’ll get another chance to poke fun at their principal. Hooper promised to do something outlandish – like kiss a pig – if students meet the goal.

“If you meet my challenge, I’ll meet yours,” he told the gym full of students.

More importantly, if each student reads at least 20 minutes a day – what it would take for the school to reach a million minutes by May 23 – they’ll likely be better-equipped for end-of-grade tests.

Third-graders, specifically, could benefit most from the challenge.

Their reading exams come with higher stakes this year: Third-graders who fail the reading exam risk having to take a six-week summer reading camp or being held back, according to a state law passed in 2012.

Last year, more than 4,800 third-grade students in Wake County failed the reading exam – a passing rate of 57 percent.

At Adams Elementary, administrators are sending students home with forms for parents to log their child’s reading.

“Our focus is getting kids who are struggling to practice, because that’s the only way to get better,” Hooper said.

So, a handful of students and teachers took the stage in the school gym to ignite their competitive spirits.

They raced to blow up balloons, they threw ping-pong balls into a bucket resting on someone else’s head, and they even wrapped one another in toilet paper.

“This is a serious issue,” Hooper said. “But if teachers are having fun and students are having fun, all the better.”

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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