NC Superintendent: 70K third-graders promoted despite failing reading requirements

NC Superintendent: 70K third-graders promoted despite failing reading requirements

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina's superintendent of public instruction is alleging that more than 70,000 third-grade students have been wrongly promoted since 2014 even though they did not meet mandated reading requirements.

Recent data shows that 44% of students in North Carolina can’t read on grade level by the time they finish third grade.

Lawmakers approved the Read to Achieve program in 2012. Under the program, students are to be promoted based on their academic abilities, not their age.

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State Superintendent Mark Johnson released a memo last week claiming the State Board of Education moved students on, even if they weren’t proficient.

He said the board and former staff members of the Department of Public Instruction used “aggressive workarounds" that he claims have “gutted” a program meant to ensure students can read proficiently before advancing to fourth grade.

“If a child can’t read by the end of third grade, the data is incredibly clear into what the eventual outcomes will be for that child, so we have got to fix that, whatever that is,” Johnson said.

State Board Chairman Eric Davis is denying Johnson's allegations. He says that if the board had enacted policies that were not in accordance with the law, the General Assembly would have already taken action.

Representative Craig Horn is the chair of the House of Appropriations Committee for Education. He told Channel 9 that he was a part of a process to set up rules and exemptions for students who were reading below grade level.

The exceptions include extra classes and camps if officials do not believe the student should be held back.

“When we created the policy, we created several exceptions,” Horn said. “Are those exceptions being abused? I can’t say that they are or not, and I intend to find out.”

Republican Johnson also wrote in his memo that he is working with local superintendents to “restructure the policies implementing” the program.

Johnson has been feuding with the board since getting elected in 2016.

A Channel 9 investigation last year found that reading performance had gotten worse under the program.

State lawmakers tried to make changes to the program leading up to this year, but Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the bill, saying the program hasn’t worked, and the plan wouldn’t have done enough to fix it.

9 Investigates: NC third-graders continue to fail reading exam despite state efforts