The Sampson County Board of Education heard more about the state’s Read to Achieve Act during its work session Tuesday morning and learned how the act will bring about changes in reading throughout Sampson’s elementary schools starting this January. Those changes include offering additional opportunities for students to prove their reading proficiency through more tests, a reading portfolio, and a summer reading camp.
Jeanna Moore, elementary curriculum and instruction director, shared with school board members that the act, which was adopted in July 2012 as part of the Excellent Public Schools Act/House Bill 950 and took effect at the beginning of the current school year, features seven total components.
While all seven components were a part of the presentation, one of the components that was highlighted during the work session calls for schools to “facilitate early grade reading proficiency” in kndergarten through third grade using a variety of assessments to pinpoint the causes behind students’ reading deficiencies.
“All of our elementary schools, K through 3, have participated,” noted Moore, explaining that the facilitating is done via the state-funded Reading 3D program. “We’ve been using it extensively…It’s been a very good program for us.”
Another component of the act that was discussed was the “elimination of social promotion.” Moore explained that this feature of the act “took away the power from principals for retention and promotion” of third graders only.
Additionally, this component allows students to be promoted to the next grade level, she continued, through one of five “good cause exemptions” which include a student showing proficiency through a reading portfolio.
“This affects us the most,” Moore pointed out.
For students, successful completion of the new reading portfolio includes taking benchmarks and undergoing progress monitoring, going through learning interventions that their teacher feels is needed, and completing 36 reading passages.
Moore explained that the portfolio will offer students another path for promotion, allowing them to be promoted even if they fail the End-of-Grade (EOG) test.
“By law, we’re only required to give the passages to the at-risk (students),” she pointed out, ‘but we want to give the opportunity to all third graders,” mentioning that the portfolio can provide valuable information about all third graders to their teachers.
School board member Faye Gay expressed concern for the teachers and the addition of administering the portfolio requirements to their workload, asking if all of the system’s third grade teachers had assistants.
Moore replied that the system’s third grade teachers either had no assistant at all or had one that was shared with other teachers. She added that as far as the portfolio requirements were concerned teacher assistants could only be of limited help to teachers since the portfolio’s reading passages cannot be administered to students by anyone other than the students’ primary reading teacher.
In addition to the portfolio alternative, another opportunity that will be available for struggling students as part of the act’s call for “successful reading development for retained students” is a six-week-long summer reading camp, funded in part by the state, that will require a minimum reading block of three hours.
“We’re required to set this up for them this summer,” said Moore.
School board member Faye Gay inquired as to how soon school officials would know about a summer camp in Sampson and asked where the rest of the funding for the camp would come from.
“I can guarantee you we’re going to have a summer camp,” replied Moore, adding that school officials know very little about funding at the present time but that once they know how much money to expect from the state and how many students to expect in the camp they would have a better idea of how much additional funding would be needed for the camp.
Interim superintendent Mike Warren interjected that he had attended a superintendents’ meeting approximately 10 days before and described the gathering as “one of the most contentious” he had been a part of, recalling how state superintendent Dr. June Atkinson was near tears and how superintendents had expressed anger and concern about everything from where the portfolio’s passages came from to the funding for the summer reading camp.
“We’ll have to wait and see where funds come from to fill in the gaps,” he said, agreeing with Moore that right now school officials “have no idea” and predicting that “a good portion will be unfunded.”
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.