9 investigates new law requiring 3rd graders to pass reading test

by: Peter Daut Updated:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - It's been a hot topic of debate: A new state law that requires third graders pass a reading exam. The state is giving school districts more say in the process.
Most third graders at Dilworth Elementary School are strong readers. But the state's Read to Achieve law that took effect this year means they have to prove their reading meets standards for their age, or else they may not move onto fourth grade.
"It puts an undue burden on many school systems. It does not give a lot of time to implement it," Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education member Joyce Waddell said.  She and school officials across the state have criticized parts of the law that require students take tests at the beginning and end of the year, or a portfolio of 36-mini-tests throughout the year.
"It takes time from teaching. It takes time from instructions that children can be involved in," Waddell said.
School districts won approval from the State School Board Thursday to administer their own reading tests, as long as they meet state requirements.
"We still have the opportunity with some children to use the other options such as passing the end of grade, beginning of grade tests, or if the teacher decides to use the portfolio then those options are still available," State Superintendent June Atkinson said.
The executive director of Learning and Teaching for CMS said the spirit of the law is good, it's the implementation that's the challenge right now.
 "Once we get past the implementation, and once we make it a smooth transition for all of us, I think the benefits are certainly going to outweigh some of the short-term challenges," Chuck Nusinov said.
CMS officials plan to discuss the law on Tuesday.  Gov. Pat McCrory defended the goals of Read to Achieve earlier this week, and urged the State School Board give districts more flexibility to avoid over testing.