Monday, January 20, 2014

Read or flunk: It's way more complicated

In a summer headline,  I dubbed North Carolina's  "Read to Achieve"  program the  "read or flunk plan."  The mandate from the state legislature does threaten third-graders with retention if they can't pass reading tests.  But six months later,  as state and local officials grapple with options,  it's becoming clear that the route from third grade to fourth grade is more like a maze than a forked path.

The first branch,  as it turns out,  has already happened.  Soon after this school year began,  third-graders took new Beginning-of-Grade reading exams  (yes, we now have a BOG test).  Late last week,  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools learned that students who scored at third-grade level on that test will be eligible for promotion without having to worry about the barrage of tests they encounter during the rest of the year,  spokeswoman Kathryn Block said.  CMS is working on a count of how many children cleared that hurdle.

Students who pass the End-of-Grade reading test in May will also be cleared for promotion.  But last year fewer than 50 percent of third-graders in CMS and North Carolina cleared that bar.  That means some 6,000 students in CMS alone are at risk of getting bad news at the end of the year,  and it's impossible to be sure which students might fall short.

That's why districts like CMS and Wake County are planning to make sure all students who might be at risk have a chance to get onto another path to promotion by demonstrating grade-level skills on a series of smaller  "portfolio"  tests.  The current plan means those students will have to read 36 passages and answer questions on them between now and May.  CMS is going to the state Board of Education next month to seek approval for an approach that involves fewer tests.

Another fork comes for students who fall below grade level on the portfolio and the final exam.  They'll be offered the chance to attend summer reading camps,  which by state mandate will be three hours a day for six weeks.

If parents decline to send the kids, they'll be held back.

Think about that one for a minute.  As a working parent who doesn't get summers off,  I know how hard it would have been for me to get my son to a three-hour program,  then find another place for him to be for half the day and get him there.  If parents can't or won't do it for whatever reason,  their children don't move up to fourth grade.

CMS is seeking state permission to substitute a three-week,  six-hour camp,  a schedule officials hope will be more practical for parents and more attractive to the skilled reading teachers they want to hire for those sessions.

For those who do go to summer reading camp,  there is  (what else?)  another chance to take a test.  If they pass, great.  If not,  they can be assigned to a combined third/fourth-grade class or to an "accelerated learning"  class with extra reading instruction.  Those kids can be deemed ready for mid-year promotion to fourth grade.

And if all that isn't complicated enough,  there are also exemptions for students with disabilities or limited English proficiency.  And here's the one that had steam coming out of some CMS leaders' ears:  Charter schools have more flexibility about participating in the Read to Achieve maze.  Read the CMS presentation here or view the school board's discussion here  (because of a problem with video archiving,  the recording starts in the middle of the staff report on Read to Achieve,  but the full follow-up discussion is available).


Anonymous said...

This entire thing from top to bottom is a cluster of epic proportions. (FACEPALM).

Shamash said...

All anyone has to do is look at the flowchart in the CMS presentation on the legislation to see all the exceptions, second, third, and fourth chances given.

That's why I said that we will STILL be graduating semi-literates on sports scholarships under this program.

This plan still makes way too many excuses and includes "social promotion" as well.

It really is an example of too much government interference just for the sake of interference to make it look like they're "doing something".

I seriously do not understand why the 3 MAP tests given each year in the first 3 grades aren't enough to alert someone that a kid can't read in enough time to do something about it.

I know I keep on top of my kid's MAP test scores and become concerned when he doesn't score at least a grade or two ahead of (much less below) grade level.

And I consider those MAP tests to be of more value than any other tests since they are set to national standards for comparison and not some local yokel's idea of what is "grade level".

So, where are the parents in all this?

I don't believe that the teachers AREN'T TEACHING.

What are the PARENTS doing to help for THREE YEARS?

Surely the kids don't just "fall behind" in the third grade, they must have some clue.

Shamash said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shamash said...

This article doesn't mention the one "good cause" that convinced me they weren't serious.

It's the one for the kid who has been "retained" MORE THAN ONCE in kindergarten, first, second or third grades.

In other words "social promotion" or "seat time" as we used to call it.

So the "final option" is to just keep flunking and eventually they will pass you.

The same thing that got us in this mess.

BolynMcClung said...


Cursive, foiled again.

Bolyn McClung

Jack said...

Go to And you can find a solution. My grandkids used it last summer and ended up above grade level.

Wiley Coyote said...

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Child Nutrition Services will participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Summer Food Service Program this year from June 15 through Aug. 7 and serve meals at more than 120 sites across Mecklenburg County.
The program provides nutritious meals for free to children who are 18 years of age or younger. The meals will be served at several locations including CMS schools, churches, YMCA branches and summer-camp programs. All locations serve lunch, with 35 also serving breakfast. Most sites serve meals Monday through Friday; serving times and days vary per location.

I'll ask the question again.

CMS serves 450,000 FREE summer meals, so how is it many of these same parents can find their way during the day to get free meals, but can't do the same for the educational health of their kids?

Pre-K is touted as a saviour for kids. By the 3rd grade, CMS and parents should already know where their kids stand on reading level.

I see nothing wrong with tightening the requirements. It isn't as if this is a new phenomenon, so if parents don't get it and their kids still can't read by the fourth grade, hold them back.

Stop the excuses and coddling!!!!!

Anonymous said...

This is making my head hurt. CMS, stop the excuses, either implement the plan or not, and hold the parents accountable. There has to be some parent accountability piece to this or it will fail. How about parents required to attend a portion of the reading workshops with their kid(s) or the child doesn't get promoted. Time to get tough, or NOTHING will change. No more excuses.

Barb S. said...

I recently read a statistic stating that once a student graduates from high school, 45% never read a book again. I've got to try to find that info to post here. Very interesting, and very sad.

My children are grown and gone but my advice to younger parents, read books (not tech toys) to your children and read books yourself, to foster a love of reading in your home. It's not rocket science.

Anonymous said...

The government school system will never hold minority parents accountable.

Shamash said...


Want to take bets on whether it's the same kids getting the free summer meals as needing the reading summer program?

Now THAT would be an interesting "correlation", wouldn't it?

Anyone at CMS dare to say?

Sounds to me like combining a summer reading program with the free meal program would be a sensible thing to do anyway.

Starting at Kindergarten, or maybe birth.

Not waiting until the third grade.

Call it "Read To Feed".

Since, we all know "poverty" is the REAL problem...

Shamash said...


Found this:

Total percent of U.S. high school graduates who will never read a book after high school 33%

Total percentage of college students who will never read another book after they graduate 42%

Maybe those college grads have had enough...

But I find that hard to believe.

Maybe they are busy reading too much other stuff in smaller chunks to read a whole book.

Anonymous said...

The EOG reading tests are torture for young kids. The passages are long and boring. The state keeps pushing the curriculum down lower and lower. 10 years ago we did not expect kindergartners to be reading at the end of the year. If they did, that was great, but it was recognized that there are variables in early childhood development that prohibits that. I am all for more reading instruction for low readers, that is a key skill for academic achievement. However, these tests are ridiculous.

Barb S. said...

Shamash, you found the info I was referring to. Scary data, our next generation will NOT be reading. They will read in "byte" sized chunks and that's it. They are learning to skim, cut and paste information from the Internet at school. This is not real learning, or real reading in my opinion.

Wiley Coyote said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wiley Coyote said...


Seeing as how 6,000 are "at risk", I think it's a safe bet that many are one and the same...

There are approximately 49,000 pre-K through 5th grade students in CMS. 2,750 are pre-K.

Doing the math, there are approximately 11,000 +/- 3rd graders, so if 6,000 are at risk, you're looking at 54.5%.

CMS free and reduced lunch percentage is, you guessed it - 54%.

Shamash said...


I know that it took me a few years to WANT to read an entire book again after I completed college.

And I was a voracious reader before college, so I understand why this happens.

But it happened to me some 30 years ago, long before the standardized testing craze.

So I still have hope that people will "recover" and continue reading.

But I'm just as sure reading will change with technology just as writing has, and it could become a more serious problem in the future.

Certainly "real" serious reading can take a lot of effort.

There is a lot more to reading poetry, for example (where every word might matter) than reading the Wall St. Journal.

And, of course, standardized testing doesn't always catch every nuance of interpretation of what is written, so you'll probably NOT get very useful standardized tests for poetry.

But all this testing is on rudimentary reading skills and reading for information, not poetry.

Which is apparently a problem for a LOT of people.

And standardized testing is a bit of a necessary evil in today's society, so everyone needs to know how to take those tests.

Gawd knows I've taken some Gawdawful standardized tests for professional "licenses" and "certifications" before.

(Some were even poorly translated from Dutch, so that you could get answers wrong just because the questions didn't quite match the presented material.)

I personally use the results of my kids MAP testing just to see how they are doing in general and to avoid surprises, just as I don't necessarily agree with each test given by a teacher.

(Some of those tests are dumb and irrelevant to what my kid knows or has learned, too.)

To me tests aren't everything, but I use them as a general guide.

Shamash said...


Interesting "coincidence" on those percentages.

Now if only we could confirm that they are the same folks in both subsets.

You'd think CMS would do a quick "study" to see if they could kill two birds with one stone by having a summer "Read and Feed" program.

Or maybe that is making this all too obvious for comfort.

Anonymous said...

A summer "Read and Feed" program, not likely, you have trespassed on 2 distinct "fifedoms".

Though I will admit there are a number of summer reading prograsm that are part of larger programs that include meals. Most are served by groups outside of the CMS domain though Ann had written about one at Thomasboro a couple of summersa ago if I recall right.

Lastly, you recall the local NAACP chapter has been working hard on CMS adminstration to get year round, all day, all meals, all near parental responsiblility for their children from CMS. I guess they secretly realized how awful their parents are.

Anonymous said...

As an educator I find the maze of exceptions ludicrous. For decades we bemoan that we are falling behind the rest of the world in the base educational requirements that lead to success in the technologically globalized economy. Now when the standards have been raised, we are looking for every excuse to socially promote students who are not on great level. As this second semester opens, I reviewed my class roll and am confused whether I should hold after school tutorials in my classroom or bar since I have students who will turn 21. This includes a 20 year old who is still listed as being in the 9th grade. These are the exceptions since most of their classmates who are listed as being either in the 11th or 12th grade will read at the middle school level at best but were never held back. Guess who is being held responsible for their academic achievement? I will give you a hint- it is not them or their parents. Oh-by the way- I do not teach in a "hood" public school.

Anonymous said...

Speaking about technology- it is grade level- not great level- Hooray for auto spellcheck. I wonder how many of you or those that never read a book could of found that!!!!!!!!! Same poster as 12:34

Anonymous said...

There seems to be some warranted balking at the plan. Another article suggested that children have the potential to lose up to 20% of their learning time under the Portfolio plan.

My question is how would those critical of the Read to Achieve plan redesign its implementation to still achieve the intended aims?
They have attempted to take what we know works and formulate a plan that generally fits for our 100+ school systems: extra reading instruction and emphasizing summer reading to avoid learning loss and reinforce content.

Now, how do you design a program that works in the face of the circumstances: transportation, parent work schedules, and the additional costs to keep the school open?

The SBOE, legislators, and DPI would love parental input.

Shamash said...

Anon 12:13.

Yep, and somewhat ironically, the slide which CLEARLY shows the CONTINUED path to "social promotion" (as its final bullet point, p. 4)is labeled:


(Like we're too dumb to notice that it's still there if they mis-label it.)

I guess some "fifedoms" play to the beats of different drummers.

(Ha, couldn't resist.., and it was hard to get my spellcheck to allow that pun. Such are the hazards of technology.)

I suspect that a "Feed and Read" program might not be popular with the crowd who wants something for nothing, either.

Just as a test, I would like to see the program linked to some extra "education" to see how many would rather "go hungry" than have to put out the extra effort.

And I know what they mean by semi-literates in HS. I had to read History tests to the basketball players in HS decades ago.

I don't know how many of them went on to play with college "scholarships" because I left the school after my freshman year.

But it was in the "hood" (or what was soon to become the "hood" after everyone else left in the 1980's).

Apparently, not much has changed.

Shamash said...

Anon 12:50.

Well, for one thing, they should make their "intended aims" clear.

But, I think they are going about the whole thing backwards by trying to fix the "defects" long after they have left the production line for learning basic reading.

Reading programs should be in place to help "at risk" kids LONG before the third grade.

They need to build the quality into the reading programs, not sort for rejects after failure.

And they have my "Feed and Read" suggestion to help (provided that it is mostly the same "community" being served as I suspect.)

And I'd suggest THAT for K-3 or whenever the optional "free" lunches are offered.

Except that I know many parents will want their "free" meal regardless.

And there is nothing anyone will do to fix the FRL program.

But maybe there's hope for the optional food programs...

Of course (being skeptical from having seen this problem all my life), I suspect they'll need to make the "educational" portion mandatory or it won't matter.

Also, I suspect there will be some attrition from the optional (i.e., non-FRL program) free meals just because of the extra "effort" involved.

But I do like the provision of excluding all the kids who pass the test at the beginning of the year from all the pain and suffering.

They just need a way to make sure the "at risk" don't take away from THEIR quality time in class.

In fact, I'd suggest separate programs for those "at risk" kids LONG before they get to those 3rd grade EOG's.

Like as soon as the MAP tests show they're below grade level.

Or maybe the moment they're born.

Wiley Coyote said...


Stigma. That's all you need to know.

How does a classroom full of third graders have one group on one path and another group on a separate path to reading?

I agree with you.

If by the third grade you haven't figured out who can read and who can't, you have a much bigger problem in that your system and accountability sucks.

Pamela Grundy said...

What many of these comments do not take into account is that failing an EOG tests does not necessarily mean that a child cannot read. The tests determine how well a child can follow a narrow, highly pedantic method for answering multiple-choice questions.

The entire problem with testing madness is that it is based on tests that do a lousy job of measuring what children have actually learned because of the limitations of the multiple-choice format, which is not going away because it has the least astronomical of an array of astronomical testing price tags. Thus the need for loopholes, extra time-wasting testing, etc.

Much of the testing lunacy is the fault of the federal government, but our beloved Republican legislators can only blame this third-grade madness on themselves.

Wiley Coyote said...


So what one test should be considered in pre-K, kindergarten, 1st grade and second grade to determine that by the third grade, 6,000 kids can't read?

We can all agree that testing for testing sake is a waste of time and money and to use those tests to determine a teacher's salary is not the way to go - but - at some point everyone needs to be held accountable for the gross failure of the system.

No Common Core, No No Child Left Behind, No testing, No Read to Achieve, No TFA and so on and so on. We can debate the pros and cons of these and other programs, but in the end, 6,000 third graders can't read on grade level and all everyone wants to do is bitch about testing and whatever flavor of the day program is being put in place.

It's time to educate the parents, tell them what is expected of their children in whatever grade they're in, pur programs in place to give every child an opportunity to succeed and if they don't get it, too bad.

Cut the cord and move on.

Anonymous said...

What would CMS be without the Program du jour?

I'm all for Year round school. It makes the most sense for all students, and would certainly be most beneficial for struggling students.

Pamela Grundy said...

Mr. Coyote,

I focus on testing madness because it diverts time, energy and resources from actually teaching kids what they need to know. Trying to keep a bad situation from getting worse is not an especially thrilling endeavor, but I see the potential to do some good for all public school children, not just those who struggle.

Under your system, what do you expect kids who don't learn to read to do when they leave school?

Wiley Coyote said...


I'm not disagreeing with you on the testing issue. I stated that in my comment.

My point is, here it is 2014 and we still have the same issue(s) with large numbers of kids not on grade level with many barely able to read by the third grade. 6,000? That's an epic failure.

The question isn't what is a kid to do when they leave school and can't read - we already have that and have for years. The question is, how did they get to the 12th grade or any other grade in the system when they couldn't read any better two or three grades prior to that?

Pamela Grundy said...

Mr. Coyote,

It's not the 12th grade we're talking about, it's the third grade, and it's not 6,000 children who can't read, it's 6,000 who can't pass the EOG.

Everyone at every elementary school knows which students can and cannot read. In the end the question is what schools can do to move that process along. Study after study has shown that holding kids back a grade because they haven't mastered a skill frequently does more harm than good. Raising class sizes, cutting teacher aides, wasting time with testing and driving away good teachers all do more harm than good as well. Again, damage control is no fun, but sometimes its necessary.

You can yell at students' parents all you want, but that won't get us anywhere either.

Wiley Coyote said...

Splitting hairs Pam?

Either kids in the third grade can read on grade level or they can't. Which is it?

If a child in the third grade can read the word "cow" do we pass them?

What is the minimum level of acceptance of reading to be able to go from third grade to fourth grade or any other grade for any other subject?

What's the excuse for the past 30 years?

As I said. This is nothing new.

...New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has built quite a legacy for himself cracking down on soda, salt and, just the other day, loud ear buds.

Nevertheless, as CBS New York reports, Bloomberg might want to spare a few minutes to focus on this shocking statistic: Almost 80 percent of all New York City high school graduates who want to enroll in the City University’s community college system must first relearn basic reading, writing and math.

All told, approximately 11,000 would-be students are required to take remedial courses each year.

Yeah. Let's don't hold kids back.

Wiley Coyote said...

...On the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, an exam administered every two years, average scores for fourth and eight grade reading remained stagnant or barely improved. Only 34 percent of students were rated reading "proficient." National 12th-grade reading scores were lower in 2009 than they were in 1992.

To add to that, scores on the SAT critical reading portion to a record low last year -- its three-point drop among test-takers marks just the second time in the last 20 years that reading scores have fallen by that much over a single year.

Those darn EOGs!

Pamela Grundy said...

Those interested in the meaning of NAPE scores might look at a recent Diane Ravitch blog:

Anonymous said...

Focusing on the testing aspect of this is low-hanging fruit and not dealing with the root causes of reading failure. I agree that a multiple choice testing format is not ideal, but the state is charged with evaluating student progress and multiple choice responses is the quickest way to do so. We expect pre- and post- tests in everything else. Can we accept two tests?

The broader problem is and remains allocation of resources. There is growing recognition that early childhood programs are the best investment in reading performance, but running them as designed is expensive and time-consuming. So, we water the programs down and make them available to only a small subsection of children and,then, wonder why we don't get results.

So, we end up with Read to Achieve, which, from what I've read and heard, is really a good effort and about the best that the government can offer given the prevailing "cut everything" Legislature. A better solution would be to expand NC Pre-K to serve a broader swath of students. But, that would be too expensive.

One caveat: I'm still trying to understand these exemptions because those seem like the students most in need of retention under this plan.

Anonymous said...

Find it hilarious that the great Pam even thinks that "yelling" at the parents of these kids doesn't work.
Its the same story-throwing good money away for no results. When will it ever end and when will society make ALL accountable for their own actions/ lack of actions?
Time to cut the cord now!

Wiley Coyote said...

Like I said.... if you can read "cow" in third grade, you have mastered reading.

You know there is a huge problem and has been for years.

There are those who want to deny and deflect the issue and those who want set a basic standard and work towards that goal.

The "explanation" given means I'll see you one Diane Ravitch and raise you one Michelle Rhee.

After that, we're back to square one.

Wiley Coyote said...


Can you provide data that shows NC pre-K has done such a good job that there are virtually no at-risk kids who came from a pre-K environment in the 3rd grade?

I agree. It's too expensive and no data to support expanding the program.

Anonymous said...

So let me guess, the same people complaining that our students aren't on par with those in other countries are the same ones who are fighting Read to Achieve?? Either we make changes that have teeth, or we continue to ignore the problem. How does passing kids on to the next grade just so their feelings aren't hurt help anyone?

Shamash said...

Anon 7:34.

Not in my case. It appears to me that Read to Achieve has too many "forks" in the road to mean much.

It still looks like too many kids will be passed on without knowing how to read.

Anonymous said...

NC legislators' actions are showing the first signs for an improved business climate in NC. However, NC still has a huge mountain to climb with the increasing burden of Medicaid, and the unemployment taxes to pay back to the feds.

These are not the first ever steps taken by educrats to address this reading shortcoming. It has been almost the solitary focus of the "social engineers" since forced integration started showing up. Now the non-readers are showing up in the test scores that can not be hidden away behind a population of good students and responsible parents. However this NC legislature stepped to attempt to accomplish something that hundreds of programs over the last 20 years have not accomplished. But still the public education machine full of noble but misguided mouthpieces refuse to acknowledge.

Of course my huge frustration is that failed programs are never cut, and all educrats talk about about is how to get more money. We know Head Start does not work. We know preK does not work. We know strategic staffing does not help. We know the schoolhouse allotment multiplier 1.3 does not work. Why is no one willing to cut these and rechannel that money to something else? CMS and SBOE put all these noble programs in place, refuse to determine if they are helpful or not, then act like it is anti-children, racist, or an entitlement to not cut them when they have not effect. We continue to throw good money down the drain.

Folks this is not the first time, the first program, the first of anything that has been proposed to address this problem.

We all know the false underpinning of the improved graduation rate. We all know of the significant amount of dollars being spent by our community college system and our 4 year colleges to address students who can not perform. Progressives have argued for decades for a national curriculum and now they have it. And of course they do not want the tests that should go along with it to compare the education level of John in Charlotte with Jim in Chicago. We've social promoted for decades and the minority leadership lack the ability or desire to point out how it is hurting their people. No, they get their pockets lined along the way and get great press by junk papers and reporters whining about their victimhood.

If it is not obvious that government schools are out of whack, you simply wish to not see it.

Anonymous said...

January 20, 2014 at 12:37 PM said "Speaking about technology- it is grade level- not great level- Hooray for auto spellcheck. I wonder how many of you or those that never read a book could of found that!!!!!!!!! Same poster as 12:34".

It's "could have"...not "could of".

Anonymous said...

I know many within CMS tout the wonders of technology at school. Anyone wonder why, since the introduction of technology at school and personal tech devices, that the overall grades and reading levels of our students have gone down in this country?

And, I assume we no longer teach spelling, grammar or cursive.

Shamash said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shamash said...


I've been familiar with NAEP tests for a while and also read Ravitch's stuff along with a few others to balance what she says.

I also noted that the definition of "proficient" seems to change with the wind back when Morrison was recently rated "proficient" as a superintendent.

The rating system for a superintendent is oddly more lax than that of the NAEP for students.

Proficient for a superintendent is roughly equal to "sufficient", not excellent or even very good.

In the particular blog you mention, Ravitch hits on a few good points but misses the obvious big one.

And it's one which somewhat supports her case.

That is the fact that the aggregate national scores suffer from what is known as "Simpson's Paradox".

You can look it up. Aw heck, I'll throw you one. Here's a start...

"Each group has actually made greater gains over time than the overall total"

Ravitch touches on this by talking about how the individual "races" have ALL improved over some period of time, but nationally, or internationally, we look like we are failing.

Oddly, though (and this is the paradox), the aggregate group can look like it's doing worse or not improving as quickly.

This is usually the result of combining different populations in the data WHICH WOULD BE BETTER ANALYZED SEPARATELY.

It actually makes more sense to talk about the performances of the different "races" independently than it does to lump them all together for analysis.

Because they really ARE that different.

The logical conclusion she will NOT reach (or will probably not state in public) is that the "races" are actually different groups of people with their own little bell curves that are fairly consistent over time.

It's a bit like comparing the running speeds of greyhounds, poodles, and dachshunds.

They may all be running faster than last year, but the dachshunds are gonna make the greyhounds look slower when you group their times together.

Especially if you are adding more dachshunds and poodles than greyhounds into the mix.

Note, however, that she WILL use this fact WHENEVER IT SUITS HER PURPOSES, such as when she blames the fall of Finland from the top of the PISA scores on the fact that more "high-scoring" "Asians" are being tested.

(She references Yong Zhao for this insight.)

So she KNOWS that "Asians" score better than "Whites" on average and may even have a good idea why, but she's not telling.

And moving those bell curves is a bit like moving mountains.

Which is why we will probably always have a "performance gap" and why it is silly to think it can be changed easily, if at all.

We are either talking about massive cultural changes or maybe even more.

It's comparable to turning Africa into Europe or Europe into Asia or Mexico into Vietnam.

It's not just money.

Anonymous said...

Shamash, seriously can you abbreviate your responses?

Your insight is helpful and entertaining, but brevity is not your strong suit.

Shamash said...

Actually, that WAS the abbreviated version.


But I know what you mean, so I'll work on it. This is what years of speed reading and speed typing have done to me.

Maybe it's time for some decaf.

And I'll save the rest of my ravage on Ravitch for another day...

Anonymous said...

Head Start is a successful program, though the public probably doesn't know it because we mostly hear soundbytes.

Headstart gets you ready for kindergarten, which is exactly what it is supposed to do.

NC Pre-K is nationally recognized as a successful intervention for children with risk factors for school failure. Other states come to study and replicate our program. It has been cut and cut by the Legislature. So, is it functioning a peak performance-- of course not. Here is a recent evaluation for you:

I'm not suggesting that early learning programs are a panacea, but nearly all education professionals will tell you that if a child starts behind, then chances are that they will stay behind. AND, that the best value intervention would be in universal pre-K. Everyone knows it, but it is deemed "too expensive" to implement correctly. It doesn't stop there, but is an opportunity that we are not optimizing.

I just wanted to respond with evidence. Do not listen to those who would tell you everything in the school system is bad; it's simply not true.

-Pay a little now or pay a lot later.

Anonymous said...

3:47, I don't doubt what these organizations "want" us to believe. The UNC program has been notoriously known as a cheerleader and white apologists for some time. I have not paid much attention to them for some time. The latest Head Start summary was presented the day Christmas Break started in Washington. Kinda makes you scratch your head a little if it has been so successful, why present it when 90% of folks have left town?

I see these kids the next 3 to 5 years after these programs. I know what I see. I would suggest what these programs have done is allowed the parents(?) an out for parental responsibility and thus they have not developed the necessary parenting skills to support their child in later years. Some believe these programs are all noble or something. Maybe it gets you a pat on the back on the church steps. But do you teach your child to manage money by bailing them out of every bad decision they make? I think not.

This is no way to fight the war on poverty by paying them to continue the behavior that keeps them in this level of society.

Shamash said...

I think any serious "preschool" program should focus on the parents.

If the parents aren't willing to learn how to take care of their kids, there is little the "schools" can do.

After all, you only spend a small portion of your life in "school".

And a lot more elsewhere.

Again, they're throwing money at the wrong thing and the wrong people for much success.

There aren't a lot of "gold standard" success programs in pre-K education.

The ones which are usually focus on the parent(s) or include heavy parental involvement (hint, hint at the REAL problem).

Again, there is politically motivated, politically corrected BS and then there is serious research and facts which meet the so-called "gold standard" of randomized sampling and other such oddities to education "research".

Here's a recent "scientific" study:

Summary begins on page 49.

Basically, the effects of Pre-K were GONE by the FIRST GRADE with the non-participants actually doing better on Quantitative tests than the participants.

Hardly a success.

But, then, this was a scientific study, not a political hackjob.

Of course, those who are opposed to testing for results of any kind (and statistical studies in general), will claim otherwise for their pet projects.

Shamash said...

Anon 8:24.

I think you're on to something.

These programs seem like they are just enabling poor parenting to continue and not solving any root problems at all.

They look like a crutch to me and a way for those with some lingering guilt complexes to feel good about "doing something" for "the poor".

Especially since there haven't been any large-scale success stories for this type of stuff in the last two generations.

Sure, I'd like universal free daycare for my kids, too.

But I wouldn't want to leave them there all day.

Not with the results I'm seeing.

Anonymous said...

Shamash and Anon 8:24, the gold standard program evaluations that you mentioned have all included early childhood programs combined with child development/parenting classes. They show very long-term results, but they also cost about $10,000 per student, would you fund that?

You don't magically get a manual on how to parent when you have a child. Everyone, including you if you have children, could use some classes. I would be all in favor of a universally-available child development/parenting program. Would you take that on as a worthwhile expense?

And, Anon 8:24, I'm really disappointed that you dismissed the Frank Porter Graham school as "white apologists." Just because you don't like the results? You might have had a worthwhile argument until you went there. You should feel bad.

And, Shamash, why would you post a study about Tennessee's program? Post results about North Carolina. We have the 1st or 2nd highest Pre-K standards in the country, so why would you even think Tennessee's program was comparable?

This brings me to a broader issue. People who rail against things that are wrong with North Carolina rarely reference things that actually happen in North Carolina. We had a pre-K system that was the envy of other states until a few years ago when the legislature started to cut the budget.

Like I mentioned before, we can pay now or pay later. It's cheaper now. The state absolutely has a stake in the success of all children; they are our human resources. And, given the results of these latest tests, the need for reinforcement will be much broader than the population that many of you have assumed.

Read To Achieve isn't perfect, but it is necessary. And, yes, there need to be at least a pre-and post-test to know whether it is working. It will not be successful unless there are other evidence-based interventions along the way.

Shamash said...

The reason I didn't post a "gold standard" study on preschools in NC is:


The Tennessee study was basically a Hobson's choice.

(And I ain't Hobson...)

Just because everyone in the world "envies" some NC program doesn't mean it's effective.

Maybe they just envy the bucks being spent with nothing to show for it.

If YOU have a "gold standard" study on NC preschools, then please post it.

I'd love to read it no matter what it says.

So that's why this particular Tennessee study is in the news.

It is about the only viable follow-up to the 1960's Perry Preschool study (which hasn't ever been replicated as far as I know).


As for "child development" classes, I have already said before that I think it should be taught in the schools at the HS level (or even Middle School level for the "at risk" population).

It could be part of a TRUE "Home Economics" program that focuses on practical skills for running a successful household, including personal finance.


And my argument isn't necessarily with the goals of "Read to Achieve" (as unapparent as they are).

I just don't think the way they are going about increasing literacy among the "at risk" crowd is going to work.

It's just too unwieldy and
third grade is too late.

Especially since this program really just makes more excuses for the kids and adds on layers of testing and bureaucracy but still does not end social promotion.

(Even if they say it does.)

Anonymous said...


The Perry study has had the longest follow-up. There have been other studies of long-term impacts in other interventions: Chicago , Abecedarian (which happened right there in NC), and several others have been studied extensively. (

Regarding Tennessee, my contention still remains that it is difficult to generalize an opinion (they don't work) from a program in another state when our standards are among the highest in the nation. That's the equivalent of me saying there are big waves in Hawaii, so I assume there's good surfing in North Carolina. I'm not saying that Headstart or NC Pre-K are functioning as well as they could; they haven't had the funding to do so.

Check out this article:

I post that because pre-K has a broad set of supporters from both sides of the aisle. There's just too much evidence to back up its benefits.

Back on topic, the Read to Achieve goal is clear, all children must be able to read by third grade. I don't disagree about the potential problems with the exemptions, but it is wrong to believe the whole initiative will be a failure because of them. And, as I mentioned in my previous post, the results of the latest EOGs suggest that there will be a lot of students who don't meet the implied "at-risk" definition who will be participating in Read to Achieve.

I doubt I'm changing any minds, but I did want to provide some counterpoint to the prevailing opinions in these blog comments.

Anonymous said...


I found a recent Duke study about NC Pre-K that you may find more convincing. They critique the FPG study as suggestive, but their analysis still found significant positive effects on both reading and math by third grade. The study also looks at the effect of funding. I assume, you still won't find it convincing, but add it to the 123 other studies of early childhood programs over the past four decades that have shown positive effects.

Shamash said...

Anon 3:55.

I think you'd be surprised what I find "convincing".

I'm feeding at no one's "trough" on this.

And if I have an "agenda" it is primarily for more parental and student responsibility for their own success and failure.

The "village" can only do so much, before the individual has to chip in to make things happen.

Because I've seen THAT work for nearly everyone regardless of their SES, race, creed, etc., etc.

Again, all studies are welcomed, all statistics are welcomed.

I appreciate it.

Shamash said...


I've seen some of the most famous studies before.

I don't have the website where I just found so few early childhood "successes" just at hand, but this one will do, since it's basically the same list:

I think I might have been looking at an earlier version of the "what works" clearinghouse or something similar.

Of course, there are many out there.

One of my concerns with them (What Works) now, though, is that folks are playing around with new "gold standards" for research.

That, of course, raises my suspicions a bit.

As for the Perry project in particular, I have a few issues.

One, it was very small.

Two, it was a very long time ago.

I know it's time is a necessary evil in a longitudinal study, but...

I have to wonder if we REALLY have the SAME society as we had back in 1962.

It certainly wasn't the "Great Society" which came afterwards.

And I DO wonder if those "at risk" today are similar to those who were simply "poor" in earlier decades.

And I know that "at risk" has expanded quite a bit as well, which is another issue that indicates that our society just
"ain't what it used to be".

And when you add the significant influx of people from entirely different cultures (such as the Hispanic immigrants) then it's a whole 'nother ballgame.

And you can look at Mexico to see just how little THEY care about education to see what I mean.

Seriously, Mexican public education REALLY blows.

So I just have to wonder how much of that attitude they carry across the border when they come here.

Of course, we all "accept" that Asian culture influences their educational achievement, so why not the attitudes of the Hispanics?

Anyway, folks complain about my long passages, so...

Y'all use the scrollbar, OK.

Shamash said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shamash said...

Here's the place I usually look for good studies:

The Perry and Abecedarian projects are listed as "near top tier".

Only one is top tier and that involved nurses.

Another problem I have with the Perry project is the fact that they did not account for any placebo effects.

The mere fact that someone showed up and even played pattycake with the kids could have had an impact.

But their control group was one which just received "no intervention".

So, who knows if just the fact that a (most likely white) college grad even showed up at the home of a poor black family in 1962 made a difference or not.

That's why they use "sugar pills" instead of "no pills" and double-blind experiments in medicine.

So even the "doctor" doesn't know who is being "treated" and who isn't.

Because with human behavior, any kind of "bias" can creep into an experiment.

If people were NEVER positively affected by bogus treatments, then witch doctors and Oprah Winfrey probably wouldn't exist.

(And FWIW, my only lab experience has been with rats in "learning labs" as a psych minor, not a social worker, but we did learn how to perform experiments...)