While the big buzz today at the legislature is about the Senate’s education proposal (I’ll have more on that tomorrow morning), Senate lawmakers also took action today on implementing some key changes to the state’s Read to Achieve law.
Enacted in 2012 as part of Sen. Phil Berger’s Excellent Public Schools Act, the Read to Achieve law  was designed to ensure that all students are reading at or above grade level by the end of the third grade. If a student fails to achieve that benchmark, then the law requires that student to be held back from advancing to the fourth grade.
Parents, teachers and education advocates have been up in arms over the implementation of Read to Achieve, which has resulted in students taking as many as 36 tests during this spring semester — inciting fear and frustration among many eight-year-olds. And for students who fail to pass, they’ll be expected to attend six-week summer reading camps as a last-ditch attempt to make it into the fourth grade — camps that are not sufficiently funded by the state and thrust big logistical problems on the local school districts and families.
Responding to the uproar, Sen. Berger put forward some fixes today that were approved by the Senate Education Committee :
- Directs the State Board of Education to provide multiple alternative reading assessments, instead of just one;
- Allows the student reading portfolio to being being complied in the fall semester;
- Allows reading camps to take place over a three week period or longer, instead of a minimum of six weeks;
- Requires the Kindergarten Entry Assessment to yield both qualitative and quantitative data;
- Clarifies good cause exemptions for Limited English Proficient students and students with IEPs, allowing them to advance to the fourth grade.
The bill also softens the A-F school grading system for 2013-14. This system applies grades to schools based on their students’ academic performance. Instead of a 10-point scale, a 15-point scale would be used to assess a school’s performance, which means fewer schools could receive low grades of D or F.
Stay tuned for more updates as the bill moves through the General Assembly.