Schools to present literacy plans

Feb. 12, 2014 @ 07:02 PM

With the state’s emphasis on third-grade literacy this year, administrators from all 10 public elementary schools in Vance County will present its literacy plan to the school board before the year ends.

Principals from New Hope, E.M. Rollins and L.B. Yancey Elementary schools have already presented their respective school’s literacy plan to the board.

At Tuesday night’s school board meeting, Aycock principal Laura Rigsbee and Clarke principal Crystal Richardson provided information on strategies used to improve students’ reading skills and meet the Read to Achieve requirements.

The Read to Achieve law is part of the Excellent Public Schools Act, included in the state’s 2011 budget bill, and went into effect this school year. The law requires third-grade students demonstrate reading proficiency before being promoted to the fourth grade.

“When we look at our reading plan, we don’t just look at our third-grade kids or fourth or fifth grade,” Rigsbee said. “We start from the very bottom; we start with our pre-kindergarten students, and this year we have really pushed literacy in our pre-kindergarten classroom.”

Rigsbee said the state-mandated Reading 3D test — which is used to determine a student’s reading comprehension — provides useful data for teachers.

“Two days a week, they work on particular skills by looking at that data,” she said. “If someone is having a problem with phonics, then that’s what they work on with those kids. They use that data two to three days a week so they can make sure they are hitting those skills they are having difficulties with.”

Rigsbee, like many other teachers, mentioned that the additional tests as part of Read to Achieve leaves less time for instruction.

“With the Read to Achieve passages, it is cutting into our writing time, because you can’t take the passages and take the tests during reading,” she said. “So we do it during writing and that is taking time away from our writing block, so that is a negative where that is concerned unfortunately.”
The Read to Achieve law states that reading proficiency is determined from the student’s score on the third-grade end-of-grade reading test. But students can also demonstrate proficiency through a student reading portfolio that is composed of 36 mini-tests, which students take after reading a passage and must score 70 percent or above.

The portfolio is designed to serve as a back-up option for students who don’t score well on a single test.
Still, teachers and administrators across the state have voiced concerns that the additional Read to Achieve mini-tests are too time-consuming.

The State Board of Education responded to the concerns by granting approval last week to 30 school districts, including Wake and Johnston counties, that requested to use local tests to meet the Read To Achieve requirements.

Proposed alternative tests from local school districts must be approved by the local board of education and signed by the local board chair.

Local districts must also provide a statement verifying the local school board has determined the alternative assessment is a valid and reliable standardized test of reading comprehension that demonstrates a student is reading at or above the third-grade level.

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.