Commentary

Advocate fact-checks Phil Berger’s claims on student literacy — Hint: They’re off-base

In a recent post on his blog, “Notes from the Chalkboard,” public education advocate Justin Parmenter offers a powerful  critique of recent claims by state Senate President Pro Tem regarding the latest school test results. Here’s an excerpt:

“As official public school test results were released this week, Senator Phil Berger sang the praises of North Carolina’s Republican legislature’s education policy. The new batch of GOP campaign graphics he tweeted spoke of effective ‘major education reforms’ which have strengthened student literacy, among other things.

Time for a little fact checking.

Berger’s major education reform when it comes to literacy was the Read to Achieve initiative. When Read to Achieve was passed in 2012, the legislation was intended to end social promotion and help 3rd graders avoid what Berger called the “economic death sentence” awaiting students who are unable to read proficiently. The initiative attempted to improve reading by increasing the volume of assessment in grades K-3 and ratcheting up the threats of retention, essentially punishing children for not being able to read well enough in early grades.  That’s not the approach an effective teacher would take. A good educator works to understand where the child is coming from and develop unique supports that best fit his or her individual circumstances. A good educator knows that punitive measures seldom result in long term success.

Take a look at how Berger’s education reform has really impacted student literacy:

Apart from a 0.1% increase from 2015-16 to 2016-17, third grade reading proficiency in North Carolina has declined every single year since Read to Achieve was implemented and is down a whopping 5% overall, with last year’s test results showing the sharpest decline.

The data are clear that Berger’s Read to Achieve initiative has completely failed in its goal of strengthening student literacy. It’s dishonest and insulting to the intelligence of North Carolina voters to claim otherwise in an effort to gain political support.”

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