General Assembly Required Tests

A lot’s been said and written about testing students (grades K – 12). Here’s a list of tests – many required by the federal government, and others by the State’s Read to Achieve program.


G.S. 115C-174.11 provides that the State Board of Education “adopt the tests for grades three through 12 that are required by federal law or as a condition of a federal grant.” The federal No Child Left Behind (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) law requires standardized testing at the end of the school year in reading and in mathematics in grades 3-8, in science in grades 5 and 8, and in English II, Algebra I, and Biology in high school.


G.S. 115C-174.11 also requires the administration of the ACT to all 11th graders and, in G.S. 115C-174.22, to the extent that funds are available, of the diagnostic versions of the ACT in 8th and 10th grades.


In 2012, the State Board of Education received a waiver from the federal government for the requirement to measure annual yearly progress through No Child Left Behind, if they agreed to reduce the gap between the highest and lowest performing groups of students by a specific percentage each year.  The State Board also had to agree to evaluate teachers, in part, based on student academic achievement. In order to measure all teachers based on student outcomes, the State Board has developed “final exams” in subjects such as social studies that did not have statewide tests. Local school systems can use these final exams, or present an alternative way of measuring teacher performance for approval by the State Board.


The Read to Achieve program was passed as a part of the Excellent Public Schools act in the 2012 Budget. Through this program, per G.S. 115C-83.7, students who do not demonstrate reading proficiency on the end-of-grade third grade reading test, must be retained, unless they meet one of the following “good cause exemptions”:


(1) Limited English Proficient students with less than two years of instruction in an English as a Second Language program.

(2) Students with disabilities, as defined in G.S. 115C‑106.3 (1), whose individualized education program indicates the use of alternative assessments and reading interventions.

(3) Students who demonstrate reading proficiency appropriate for third grade students on an alternative assessment approved by the State Board of Education. Teachers may administer the alternative assessment following the administration of the State‑approved standardized test of reading comprehension typically given to third grade students at the end of the school year, or after a student’s participation in the local school administrative unit’s summer reading camp.

(4) Students who demonstrate, through a student reading portfolio, reading proficiency appropriate for third grade students. Teachers may submit the student reading portfolio at the end of the school year or after a student’s participation in the local school administrative unit’s summer reading camp. The student reading portfolio and review process shall be established by the State Board of Education.

(5)  Students who have (i) received reading intervention and (ii) previously been retained more than once in kindergarten, first, second, or third grades.


The Department of Public Instruction has developed an alternative assessment and a student reading portfolio to address #3 and #4 above. Our understanding is that the State Board will also review other alternative assessments to see if they would meet the law’s requirements, as submitted by local school systems.  We have also heard that DPI has sent out additional clarification that the student reading portfolio was not meant to be administered with all third grade students, but only those who appear to be reading at, or close to, a third grade level, and who may have difficulty taking more traditional standardized tests.


Here is what the law says about the student reading portfolio:


G.S. 115C-83.3(8) “”Student reading portfolio” means a compilation of independently produced student work selected by the student’s teacher, and signed by the teacher and principal, as an accurate picture of the student’s reading ability. The student reading portfolio shall include an organized collection of evidence of the student’s mastery of the State’s reading standards that are assessed by the State‑approved standardized test of reading comprehension administered to third grade students. For each benchmark, there shall be three examples of student work demonstrating mastery by a grade of seventy percent (70%) or above.”


The third grade beginning of the year reading test was administered for the first time during the 2012-2013 school year for several reasons:

  1.  Give third graders an early experience with a standardized test.  NC law (G.S. 115C-174.11(a)) prohibits standardized tests for summative assessment in K-2.
  2. Discover third graders’ reading abilities at the beginning of the year to help inform instruction.
  3. Provide a pre-post measure of the impact of instruction on a third grader’s reading ability.  The Read to Achieve program requires that the summer reading camp, the transitional third-fourth combination class, and the accelerated reading classes be taught by teachers with demonstrated student outcomes in reading proficiency.  This impact data can also be used to help populate Standard 6 of the NC teacher evaluation.  According to the waiver that NC received from the federal government for the No Child Left Behind measures of adequate yearly progress, by 2015-2016, all teacher evaluations have to include a measure of student impact.


The end-of-third grade reading test is a standardized test administered to all third graders.  It is a requirement of the federal government through No Child Left Behind (Elementary and Secondary Education Act).

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