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Couple Thousand CMS 3rd Graders Begin Mandatory Reading Camps

Nick de la Canal/WFAE

Third graders in North Carolina who aren’t reading at grade level started summer reading camps this week. It’s part of the new third grade reading law. Last year state officials predicted 60 percent of all third-graders would have to enroll in the camps, but in reality, that number is much lower.

Tuesday was many students’ first day of Read to Achieve summer classes, and Kelin, a third-grader at Hidden Valley elementary school, is less than ecstatic about the coming six weeks.

“It is boring,” she says from her classroom desk, “I don’t like reading.”

Kelin and her classmates didn’t pass their End-of-Grade reading tests, and they didn’t score well on a series of tests administered throughout the year called a “reading portfolio.” Under the new Read to Achieve law, that gave them two options: either repeat third grade, or attend reading camp.

At the beginning of the school year, CMS predicted 5,000 third graders, or about half of the district’s third grade population, would have to enroll in the camps. That sent CMS officials into a panic. CMS Chief Learning Services Officer Valerie Truesdale spoke in January.

“If we have almost 12,000 students in grade three and over 50 percent of them struggled with the beginning-of-grade test,” she said, “you can be sure we’ll be short in the funding for our summer reading camp.”

But in a press conference Wednesday morning, CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison announced the real number was much lower. Only 17 percent of CMS third graders are attending reading camps this summer. And Morrison says the $2 million from the state covers the program. CMS offers the camps at 20 schools throughout the district.

So what caused the jump from early predictions of 50 percent of CMS third graders reading below grade level, to this more-manageable 17 percent? Morrison says it’s a combination of the state lowering the score it takes to pass the end-of-year test, and allowing districts to use other test scores from the year.

Nick de la Canal is an on air host and reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal