In an effort to help parents prepare for the new demands of the statewide Read To Achieve program, Zebulon Elementary School held a series of three informational sessions, culminating in one-on-one conferences with parents last week.
“I don’t want any (parents) in the dark about any of this,” said Principal Marion Evans. “I don’t want anybody to come up short at the end of the year (and) I want all my parents to be informed about this new goal.”
The Read to Achieve program is a new law that means 3rd graders who are not reading at grade level as determined by end of year tests must repeat the 3rd grade or attend a free, district-sponsored reading camp.
There is a list of exemptions that would allow students who fail the test not to attend the camp but still move on to the 4th grade.
It can be a complicated process, Evans said, and she wanted to make sure students’ parents are well-prepared for outcomes under the new law.
She also said it was important to try introduce some tactics parents can use to make sure their student stays on track. It was important, Evans said, to get that information to parents more than once.
“We had to listen to it more than once; it’s a lot of information,” she said.
The school’s staff wanted to make sure parents understood how the summer reading camps worked and make sure they knew of tools to help get their child promoted.
At one information session, Evans said some parents asked if they could keep their child in 3rd grade even if he or she passes the reading exam.
“Some parents feel like their child may not have all the information he or she needs to be promotedd and be successful in 4th grade,” she said. “There were some questions about that and those are valid questions.”
End of grade exams across the state have become more rigorous since the state’s adoption of the Common Core standards, which are supposed to emphasize critical thinking over rote memorization of facts.
The standards are also meant to be adopted across all states to make it easier for students to switch between school systems. Only five states have not adopted the standards.
Most schools in Wake County saw a dramatic drop in test scores under the new Common Core, leaving many with 50 percent or less of students performing at or above grade level.
According to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, 41 percent Zebulon Elementary School’s 3rd-graders tested at or above grade level in reading in 2012-2013.
As a district, Wake County came in at 57 percent and across the state, only 45 percent of 3rd-graders tested at or above grade level.
The county began it’s first round of reading camps last week for Track 1 schools. Year-round schools, who do not have six-week summer breaks, will hold the reading camps over several trackout times instead of all at once like traditional calendar schools.