I’ve been sharing my efforts to help my nephew, Christopher, a kiddo on the autism spectrum (aka, A Sweet Dude). He has a reading profile similar to many ASD kids I’ve taught: tremendous word recognition and fluency with weak vocabulary and comprehension. Christopher entered 4th grade this year (having been retained once already) with a 2+ year discrepancy between word recognition and comprehension. His reading performance was recently assessed at school and voilà! Christopher has gained more than a year’s growth in reading since we began our sessions!
But before we break out the champagne, let’s examine the data provided by the school. Christopher has a “scale score” of 142 and the cut-off is 139; his score is even above his district average for third graders. But a scale score on what? It’s likely to be an mClass assessment called TRC, which uses the Fountas and Pinnel reading levels. How is the parent supposed to know? How could a parent advocate for their child on the basis of this information? There is not a single clear reference to the test, which has now successfully removed “the retained reading label.” Well, that’s a relief! A second relief is that Christopher “will now remain with [his] current classroom teacher and take the 4th grade EOGs at the end of the year.” That’s good news/bad news?
I do know that Christopher has made marvelous progress in reading, so why my sarcasm? In 2012, North Carolina initiated the Read to Achieve program designed to reduce social promotion of students not reading at grade level by third grade. Statistically, if kids aren’t proficient by then, they are at risk for school drop out. But the devil’s in the details. And you wouldn’t believe the details. Here’s a link to those details, which are amazingly convoluted even to me- and I’m familiar with the convoluted world of education. In an Op-Ed piece published by the News and Observer in June, 2015, a teacher is quoted as saying, “It is a dark day to be a third grade teacher in North Carolina.” The writers, Robert Smith and Scott Imig, take NC to task for the unintended effects of Read to Achieve, such as high rates of anxiety among third graders and teacher ratings of strong negative effects on reading.
The bottom line: Christopher is making speedy progress in our sessions, but I’m not sure the school has proved it.