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New reading standards may put 4th grade out of reach for some

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DURHAM, N.C. -

A new requirement has been added to the third grade end-of-grade reading exam. It could determine if students will move on to the next grade level.

There are some smart ways in which parents can be proactive to help their child pass the exam and what they need to do if the children don't. 

Statistics from the 2011-12 school year show that 31 percent of third graders statewide failed their end-of-grade reading exam. When broken down by districts, 42 percent of students failed in Durham, 29 percent in Cumberland, 24 percent in Wake and 18 percent in Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools.

Lori Platko is a third-grade teacher at Hope Valley Elementary School in Durham. She said third grade is a stage where children are no longer learning to read, but reading to learn.

"Reading has to take place across the curriculum. You have word problems in math, you definitely have reading in science," said Platko.

But not everyone believes the new exam is fair. 

"We don't know what the repercussions will be. We tend to see that more minority students wound up being retained," said Kristin Conradi, an assistant professor at North Carolina State University.

Statewide, 47 percent of black and Hispanic students did not pass the test as opposed to almost 20 percent of white students. 

Conradi predicts up to a third of all students will fail the initial test. Even if a child fails, it doesn't guarantee retention. Conradi says there are some exemptions. 

"So if students have limited English proficiency; If they have an IEP (Individual Education Plan), if they've demonstrated proficiency in other ways like on a portfolio test then they're fine, they also have a choice to go to what they're calling a summer reading camp which is six to eight weeks, three hours a day of reading instruction," said Conradi. 

However, for other students who fail, it's imperative they attend a summer reading camp. If they don't, it's automatic retention. 

But a child who is held back for his or her grades doesn't make them a stronger student.

"We don't have evidence to show that retaining a student for grades is going to help them in the long run," Conradi said.

For a parent, if their child is not reading at the right grade level, there are some ways to help. Conradi says one of the best things a parent can do is to figure out what level their child is most comfortable reading on their own. Then give them time and access to the books they want to read.

Platko suggests books on tape or CD, or having a parent record their own voice reading.

"Not only is the child going to listen, but then eventually the child can read along with the book," said Platko.

To help a child better comprehend what they are reading, have them explain what he or she read just after reading a few pages.

Even with that advice, Platko is still concerned for her students.

"But I do have hope they'll achieve at their level," said Platko.

The Department of Public Instruction is anticipating that more third grade students will fail the reading exam this year because of the new curriculum. School officials are still working out details for reading camp locations and transportation.

FOR PARENTS:

 

Sharon Tazewell

Sharon anchors WNCN Today weekday mornings starting at 5! Her background has helped mold her into an outstanding journalist and a perfect fit for our community. Sharon's also a trained pianist and a member of NABJ. More>>

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