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Report: NC summer reading camps did little to help young readers

Toddler reading a child's book.

One-quarter of last year’s North Carolina third-graders were either held back or placed in special reading classes this year because of low reading scores. That’s according to a report presented to the state Board of Education, which also showed summer reading camps did little good.

Ten years ago, the General Assembly approved a Read to Achieve bill that banned what some call social promotion. It mandated that third-graders who couldn’t read at grade level had to be retained.

Last spring about 47% of the state’s 113,000 third graders passed the state reading exam. About 25,000 who didn’t pass were exempted from retention because they took alternate assessments or had disabilities. That left more than 30,000 eligible for summer reading camp, which all districts must offer as a last-ditch effort to get students on track for fourth grade.

First and second graders who are at risk of reading failure are also offered that option.

Amy Rhyne of the state’s Office of Early Learning said results were disappointing.

“Grade 1, you had 9% who were proficient after reading camps. Grade 2, 8%. And grade 3, 15%,” she explained, “And those are conversations that we’re already having, because those are low proficiencies for the number of students and the number of money we’re putting into reading camps.”

That left 28,400 students, or one-quarter of the class, who had to be retained.

Schools have the option of having such students repeat third grade, assigning them to a transitional class or moving them to fourth grade with a special reading class.

State Superintendent Catherine Truitt told the board she believes an extensive science-of-reading training program for pre-K and elementary teachers will lead to progress in coming years.