- The Progressive Pulse - http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org -

Helping Our 3rd Graders

There is no doubt that ensuring that 3rd graders read at grade level or above is a great goal. The recently revised Read to Achieve [1] section of the Excellent Public Schools Act is North Carolina’s way to carry out that goal. Very much like other education policies that North Carolina has adopted (vouchers, repealing Common Core), Read to Achieve started in other states.

The most damaging part of Read to Achieve is the retention policy, particularly retention based on the results of high-stakes testing. If a 3rd grade student cannot show proficiency in reading, s/he will be left back. There are reams of paper of research that show how detrimental retention is for students. The website for Mecklenburg ACTS [2], a pro-public education organization contains a lot of information about Read to Achieve [3] as well as the problems with high-stakes testing [4].

There are things that can be done to make Read to Achieve less punitive.

Our youngest children should not fear school because of constant testing. When education is enjoyable, students will achieve. If students are struggling, we need to use all interventions at our disposal. That means having resources like textbooks and teaching assistants. Test anxiety will not bring reading achievement.

Students do not achieve because of copycat laws that punish students. We need to copy things that have already been successful like professionalizing and respecting teachers and treat learning as a lifelong goal not information to pass a high stakes test. Most importantly, students will have better chances at achievement when we not only provide not only reading interventions but intervene to provide adequate healthcare, safe and affordable housing and access to healthy food.