Nearly Eighty Percent of Third Graders Meet Reading Proficiency Standards

Seventy-nine percent (79.2 percent or 91,919 students) of North Carolina public school third grade students met the reading proficiency standards under North Carolina’s Read to Achieve program according to the Improve K-3 Literacy Accountability Measures Comprehensive Plan for Reading Achievement report. State Board of Education members received the report at their meeting in Charlotte.

These third graders demonstrated reading proficiency through one of the following options:

  • passing the Beginning-of-Grade 3 English Language Arts/Reading assessment;
  • passing the End-of-Grade 3 English Language Arts/Reading assessment;
  • passing the retest of the End-of-Grade 3 English Language Arts/Reading assessment;
  • passing the Read to Achieve Alternative Test;
  • passing an alternative assessment for reading; or
  • successfully completing the reading portfolio.

Another 8.1 percent (9,454 students) of students were exempt from third grade retention for good cause (impacts English Language Learners and some students with learning disabilities). In total, 87.3 percent or 101,373 students were promoted to the fourth grade.

The remaining 12.7 percent (14,755 students) of third graders were either retained in the third grade or placed in a transitional class or accelerated class with a reading label and identified to receive additional help. Overall, 116,128 third grade students were tested.

State Superintendent June Atkinson said, “We are glad that third grade reading is receiving additional attention under Read to Achieve. As students move through elementary school, this additional focus on reading will help to keep them on track to succeed at the next grade level.”

State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey said Board members fully support programs that help ensure student academic success. “We know that third grade is a pivotal year for future academic success, and reading proficiency plays a critical role. We want to make sure that we support not only our early learners, but also our elementary school teachers so that they can work in concert to ensure students build a strong foundation in reading.”

The North Carolina Read to Achieve Program is a component of the Excellent Public Schools Act passed by the North Carolina General Assembly during its 2012 session. The goal of the program is to ensure that every third grade student is reading at or above grade level by the end of the school year. Students who are not reading at grade level by the end of third grade receive extra support, including reading camps, guaranteed uninterrupted blocks of reading time, and intensive reading interventions so that they will be more prepared to do fourth grade work.

Of the 18,373 students eligible to attend a reading camp held by local districts during the summer, 12,827 (69.8 percent) students attended. Of that number, 3,426 (26.7 percent) were reading proficient at the end of the camp.

Students who are retained may be placed in a third grade accelerated class, in a third/fourth grade transition class with a retained reading label, or in a fourth-grade accelerated class with a retained reading label. If these students retake the reading test by Nov. 1, complete a reading portfolio, or pass a local alternative test and demonstrate proficiency, they are promoted to the fourth grade and the retained reading label is removed. These students continue to have the opportunity to show proficiency by local alternative or completed portfolio throughout the rest of the fourth-grade year to have the retained reading label removed.

To view the full report, please visit

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state’s public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.