In North Carolina, many third-grade students are participating in summer reading camps, as mandated by the N.C. General Assembly Read to Achieve law that passed in July 2012.
The law is an effort to ensure that students were reading at grade level by the end of third grade. In January, an estimated 800–1,120 students, 40–55 percent of the 2,048 third-graders in New Hanover County, were required to attend summer reading camps. This summer, about 250 students were invited to the summer camp, with only 230 students accepting.
The initial number of students not reading at grade level alarmed state legislators, because the reading camps were being funded by the state with a $286,578 budget.
“We pay teachers, we pay for transportation, we pay for materials, we pay for meals,” Dr. LaChawn Smith, NHCS director of instructional services, said.
To recognize more students who were proficient, thus minimizing the number of students attending the camps, the N.C. State Board of Education allowed 30 school districts to use local tests that demonstrated reading proficiency. Other districts, including New Hanover County, could submit requests.
Smith said students were able to prove proficiency in several ways, including alternative testing.
“They can test for proficiency in the beginning of third grade exam, demonstrate proficiency in the end of year exam, demonstrate through the portfolio process, demonstrate through an alternative assessment and can demonstrate proficiency in the Read to Achieve test,” Smith said.
Along with an extended list of ways in which students can prove proficiency, Smith said there were also ways in which a student could be exempt from attending the summer reading camp, listing “limited English proficiency with less than two years of instruction, English as a second language, [and] students who demonstrate reading proficient on an alternate assessment approved by the state board of education,” Smith said.
Read to Achieve summer reading camps started Monday, June 30 and run through Thursday, July 24, from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at four elementary school sites: Bradley Creek, Mary C. Williams, Rachel Freeman and Wrightsboro.
At the end of the reading camp, children will be given the opportunity to take the Read to Achieve test again to be promoted to the fourth grade. During the camp, students can gain proficiency through the portfolio process. However, if at the end of the camp a child is not proficient in reading, the student will receive intensive reading instruction in a third to fourth grade transition classroom, Smith said.
Smith said despite certain challenges, teachers and educators are doing the best they can to assist students.
“I’m sure the unknown of implementing a law caused some questions in the minds of parents and children because this was very new to the state and the district,” Smith said. “I think that we, through collaborative effort and our best ability, are providing children with high-quality reading services.”
Wrightsville Beach School’s principal, MaryPaul Beall, said all of the third-grade students within the school were proficient in reading.
“Our teachers did everything they needed to do to meet each individual’s needs,” Beall said.