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School board voices concerns over Read to Achieve

The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution during a called meeting Monday stating concern about the age appropriateness of the state-mandated Read to Achieve assessments and selections for portfolios.
The statewide program, approved by the General Assembly earlier this year, is used in conjunction with end of grade testing to decide whether third-graders must attend summer school, not to determine students’ reading level.
“I want a stay in Read to Achieve for the current year because the readability level of the selections that I have seen are not appropriate,” said board member Susan Cox.
At the Dec. 16 school board meeting, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Dr. Julie Morrow and Director of Elementary Education and Title I Alesia Burnette presented on first- and second-grade assessments and provided samples of portfolio selections.
“I was extremely concerned about that assessment, in that it was not developmentally appropriate,” Cox said.
Cox, who has 15 years of experience as a kindergarten and first-grade teacher, isn’t the only one concerned about the readability of the portfolio sent out by the Department of Public Instruction. Educators at the Dec. 18 curriculum committee meeting expressed their dissatisfaction with the material.
Mooresville Graded School District also questioned the assessment’s readability, so they tested 10 of the 120 third-grade portfolio passages.
Only one passage selected was on a third-grade reading level. Six of the passages were between a fifth- and ninth-grade reading level.
Mooresville Graded School District sent a list of questions to the Department of Public Instruction, and both Cox and Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody found their answers unsatisfactory.
“Being a teacher, I felt that their response was very weak,” Cox said.
Moody said the superintendents group also thought the Department of Public Instruction’s response was weak.
“Basically, they didn’t answer the question about readability at all, they just said that there’s lots of factors in the assessment,” she said.
“We’re not against the assessment,” Moody added. “It’s just been done too quick.”
Cox said administering assessments that are beyond the reading level they are assessing is counterproductive. The assessments put students and teachers under unnecessary pressure.
“We’re saying to our students: ‘You’re not measuring up. You’re failing,’ when in essence, it isn’t the student—it’s the assessment in and of itself,” Cox said.
Cox asked Rep. Harry Warren to petition the General Assembly to postpone implementation of Read to Achieve until next school year. Warren agreed and said he would talk to Rep. Bryan Holloway, head of the education committee, about the board’s concerns as well.
While the board doesn’t know if it will see results from the resolution, Dr. Moody said it is important to let the legislature and the Department of Public Instruction know that “we don’t agree with it. We think you need to take more time and do a better job.”
The board also held an hour and 40 minute closed session to discuss budget mediation, but had no action to report after the session ended.

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