by Dr. Terry Stoops
Former Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Read to Achieve is a program that requires all third-grade students to be proficient in reading. Those who do not reach proficiency by the beginning of the fourth-grade year may face remediation or retention. The spat between legislators and the NC Department of Public Instruction (DPI) went public at a recent legislative committee meeting. The Read to Achieve Advisory Committee holds their first meeting today.
Empirical research backs the idea that children who are not proficient in reading by third-grade are more likely to encounter problems in later grades. In a 2010 report (pdf), the Annie E. Casey Foundation observed,
Reading proficiently by the end of third grade is a crucial marker in a child’s educational development. Failure to read proficiently is linked to higher rates of school dropout, which suppresses individual earning potential as well as the nation’s competitiveness and general productivity.
I suspect that few experts at DPI disagree with this assessment.
The problem is a political one. Republican legislators who approved the program are not pleased with the way that Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson has implemented it. But conservatives are beginning to blame Republicans, not NC DPI, for Read to Achieve’s implementation problems.
Indeed, some of my friends, even the most staunch conservative ones, are beginning to oppose Read to Achieve. A number of my conservative Facebook friends have invited me to like their page, “NC Parents and Teachers against Read to Achieve Legislation.” The page went live on January 29 and already has nearly 600 “likes.” More than one person has directed me to an increasingly popular blog, Read to Achieve Concerns.
To their credit, Republicans are not letting June Atkinson off the hook. Nevertheless, it may be too little, too late. From what I have heard, parents and teachers already fault Republicans for the sloppy rollout of the program. And, ironically, June Atkinson may receive credit for saving it.