Carolina Journal has an article up today about NC’s Read to Achieve law entitled Students Must Read To Achieve. The article gives some background on testing in NC and the Read To Achieve law, which I dug into not so long ago when it was announced passing test scores would be lowered — for the sake of the children, of course. In that same article I dug into the layers of ‘passages’ and testing that were being heaped on our kids. It’s ridiculous. The Carolina Journal article doesn’t touch on this, however.
Anyway, there are a few passages which should be highlighted from the Carolina Journal article. Emphasis added is mine.
But what does it mean for a student to “pass” the reading test? Here’s where a second bit of education history is required.
Way back in the early 1990s, North Carolina adopted a new set of state-created exams for 3rd-through-8th graders (called end-of-grade tests) and high school students (called end-of-course tests). A few years later, then-Gov. Jim Hunt and the General Assembly enacted a new accountability program, the ABCs of Public Education, built around the results of those EOGs and EOCs.
Unfortunately, state government did not prove to be a successful testing firm. North Carolina’s EOGs and EOCs were plagued by repeated technical flaws and management snafus. They were also clearly less rigorous than the independent National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) exams, given periodically to statewide samples of 4th- and 8th-graders in North Carolina and most other states. Policymakers, parents, and taxpayers properly came to see the NAEP as the gold standard in measuring student performance. By comparison, North Carolina’s EOGs and EOCs weren’t even bronze. They were more like ceramic — pretty, perhaps, but easily broken.
And the state government STILL isn’t proving to be a successful testing firm. As I pointed out previously, Read to Achieve (RTA) heaps more on the kids who are struggling. From my understanding, there are 12 standards in RTA. Each standard has a reading passage. If the student passes that passage, they move on. If they don’t they get two more passages. So the reward for struggling and failing? More passages.
More from Carolina Journal:
In 2013, however, North Carolina launched a new testing program tied to the implementation of the national Common Core standards. Although Common Core itself has proven problematic, the idea of making North Carolina’s tests more rigorous — moving its proficiency standards closer to NAEP, in fact — was undeniably a good one.
Now look at the 2013 results for each. On the NAEP reading test, 31 percent of our 4th graders scored below basic, 34 percent scored basic, and 35 percent scored proficient or advanced. On North Carolina’s new reading EOG, 24 percent scored at Level 1, 32 percent scored at Level 2, and 44 percent scored at Levels 3 or 4. North Carolina’s new reading test still isn’t as rigorous as the NAEP, but the standards have moved much closer together. Indeed, in math the two tests actually produced similar results for 4th graders in 2013 — 45 percent at Level 3 or higher on the NAEP vs. 48 percent at Level 3 or higher on the EOG.
So where did the communication breakdown about Read to Achieve occur? To put it simply, DPI continued to treat a score at Level 3 or above to be a “passing grade” for the purposes of satisfying the promotion standard. That had been standard practice, after all, and the General Assembly had not specified the threshold for the Read to Achieve standard in its 2012 legislation. On the other hand, how could lawmakers have specified the standard in 2012? They didn’t know what the new tests and achievement levels would look like. They relied on DPI to adjust its administration of the standard to the design and results of the new exam.
The practical effect of this miscommunication was to designate far more North Carolina 3rd-graders as needing remediation at summer reading camps than the state legislature had intended. Reeling from the potential cost and adverse public reaction, the State Board of Education decided to adopt a DPI recommendation to create five achievement levels rather than four — thus making an already complicated situation even more complicated, albeit with the defensible goal of targeting state resources to the below-basic students who most needed the help.
So, not only has DPI’s adoption and roll-out of Common Core ticked off parents statewide, DPI has in effect bungled Read to Achieve as well. Who is running the show over there anyway? Knowing all of this should put more perspective on DPI’s push to lower the passing rate for the End of Grade (EOG) exams.
Remember, the EOG and RTA are just two of multiple tests and assessments being piled on our kids. Perhaps it’s time to OPT OUT.