Reading is one of the fundamental skills our schools need to teach our students and teach it well. According to results of the new ABCs reading test, NC schools are not doing a very good job. Only 56 percent of the state's third graders passed the 2007-2008 reading exam, compared to 84 percent the previous year. Under the new tests, only 31 percent of state schoools met the new standards. You can read more about the bad news on the DPI site and in the News and Observer.
DPI leaders say the low scores are a result of higher standards for reading tests. What they don’t say is that NC standards and tests had become a something of a joke. Problems with the North Carolina math standards led to corrections and higher standards in 2006. Now we’re doing the same with the reading tests.
ABC tests were designed to hold schools accountable and ensure our students are progressing. Dissatisfaction with the tests and the low scores show that is clearly not happening. Where’s the accountability if even after threats and the infusion of additional staff and resources schools, schools continue to fail?
Interestingly, this year’s reading assessments were not included in the growth calculations for new standards because of reporting timelines. No doubt many educators also feared test results would jeopardize teacher bonuses. That little change allowed 82 percent of schools to meet their growth standards and still receive more than $94.3 million in bonuses to teachers and certified staff. Although this year’s bonuses were slightly less — for budgetary reasons – they were still awarded. Awarding bonuses when designated targets aren’t met says a lot about DPI accountability efforts — or the lack thereof. It also helps to explain the need to revamp the state’s reading and math tests.