North Carolina's Read to Achieve program, enacted by the General Assembly in 2012, is continuing to get lackluster results. The program is a statewide intervention for third grade students who are not proficient in reading. Struggling students are placed in summer reading camps, receive other specialized instruction, and could be held back if they do not pass an alternative test.
A report published last October by researchers at N.C. State University and the Friday Institute found that participation in the program did not have a significant effect statewide on students' end-of-grade reading scores. This week, the state board of education discussed the state’s comprehensive plan for reading achievement and an update on those results from that evaluation conducted by N.C. State and the Friday Institute.
“Schools are teaching these kids and helping them improve their reading. What’s not happening is that they’re not exactly catching up,” said Friday Institute researcher Trip Stallings.
Stallings noted that the Read to Achieve program is run differently across all 115 school districts. Schools decide what kind of instruction and intervention students in the program receive in fourth grade, and set their own definitions of reading proficiency. They also choose how they operate the summer reading camps, and participation in the camps is voluntary. The study found that summer camp attendance did not appear to affect fourth grade reading outcomes.
Stallings emphasized that one limitation of the study is that it examined only the statewide effect. Some schools may be seeing positive benefits from Read to Achieve.
“When I was reporting to the School Boards Association early last year, a number of school board members came up to me and said, ‘You know we’re doing a really good job in our district on Read to Achieve, I’m surprised by these results,’” Stallings said.
He suggested further research into the methods used by schools that did see positive gains from the program, and a need for earlier interventions.