NC Lowers The Bar For Passing End of Course Exams

This morning WRAL has a story up about how the NC Board of Education, under the advisement of State Superintendent Dr. June Atkinson, about lowering the bar for end of grade test scores in NC.  The article covers Read to Achieve as well, so be sure to read the whole thing. Excerpt below:

The State Board of Education voted this week to approve standards that will lower the scores needed to pass end-of-grade and end-of-course exams.

In an 8-4 vote, the board expanded the number of achievement levels from four to five for this year’s standardized exams. The change will allow school leaders to get a better sense of a student’s level of achievement, said Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson.

“Most of the superintendents believe that this would allow them to have greater precision and allow them to differentiate instruction,” she said at the state board meeting.

Atkinson noted that the change will allow some flexibility for borderline students who may have failed to meet grade-level requirements by a question or two in past years.

Level 3 now means a student has “sufficient command” of the material, “but are not yet on track for college and career readiness without additional academic support.” – WRAL

How is lowering expectations and allowing kids who didn’t get by before helping them? It’s not. It’s helping pad the horrific EOG (End of Grade) scores from last year, which will likely be repeated this year. It is no coincidence that last year’s tests were during the first year of Common Core.  Statewide, it was a 37.3% proficiency drop.  That’s huge. Remember, NC DPI has tried to spin this before. Related: DPI’s Day of Spin Is Here.

Lowering the scores also means more kids fit into various levels now dictated by the state of what qualifies as needing more ‘support’, which translates into more spending and more ‘resource’ jobs. I can see parent’s heads nodding out there as I say this; especially parents with a kid in K-3: Did your child’s school at some point claim your kid needed extra resources?

Kids these days are so inundated with tests and assessments which leaves less time for actual instruction, it’s a wonder their scores aren’t lower.  So the answer to that? North Carolina adds more tests to the mix with Read To Achieve (RTA).  There are many ways to get an exemption from having to attend the RTA Summer camp, which is six weeks long. The RTA has 12 standards in it. They can be viewed here. More from Wake county specifically on RTA here.

Wake County has made the argument for using CASE21 in place of RTA passage assessments. Atkinson herself said these mini-tests were optional, but gave no indication of how that decision was to be made and by who.

Wake County also has a parents resource page for RTA, which includes a bullet list of the exemptions. If your child doesn’t get that exemption, they have to go or they don’t advance to the 4th grade. If they attend the camp and pass it, their file is marked with ‘remediation’ for the next year anyway. If they don’t pass the camp, they still advance to 4th grade. So what was the point of this camp in the first place?

While well-intentioned, Read To Achieve appears to be little more than Common Core Lite for the ELA (English Language Arts) portion and is adding another layer of assessing and testing. I doubt that is accidental — remember the EOG scores I mentioned?

The RTA assessments start in 3rd grade and include anywhere from 12 to 36 ‘reading passage’ assessments in addition to the tests the kids are already exposed to. End of Grade tests and two other sets of assessments (Case21 and mClass) are also given 3rd graders for just the English portion alone.  I noted the details below at a school meeting recently, for 3rd grade, the kids get the following just for English:

  1. Beginning EOG – establishes a baseline, totally makes sense.
  2. mClass – another quick baseline at the beginning of the year; repeated mid-year and end of year. It’s by Amplify — yes, Common Core related Amplify and DPI holds the contract. mClass was rolled out to all schools in NC for the 2013-14 school year. Related article here.
  3. CASE21 – given quarterly and are Common Core aligned. Read more about how long and how many questions here.
  4. RTA – one passage a week; but if they don’t pass that passage they have to do two more. That means either a minimum of 12 or possibly up to 36, depending on passing.
  5. EOG – End of grade exam which can take hours.

So for third grade, what are we looking at here?  A minimum of 21 tests/assessments or a maximum of 45. Just for English. Now add in the Blackline Master assessments given weekly through Common Core. That is a lot of testing and assessing…

About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a reporter currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_ Tips:
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4 Responses to NC Lowers The Bar For Passing End of Course Exams

  1. Lynn says:

    So I notice you fail to lay blame here. This Read to Achieve mess is directly from Phil Berger. You need to start calingl out conservatives who are passing bad education policy and supporting common core.


  2. Inquiring Minds says:

    Any idea on how each individual BOE Member voted? I have been looking everywhere and can’t find it.


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