It may be summer, but Rock Hill students spent Tuesday afternoon in school improving their reading skills.
South Carolina third-graders who struggle to read on grade level could be forced to repeat the grade. The retention rule went into effect this year. State law requires third-grade students who score lowest on the state’s reading assessment to be retained unless they are exempt.
The exemptions include: students whose individual studies’ plans call for alternative assessment or reading interventions; students with limited English proficiency; and students who show improvement in summer reading camps.
During the Rock Hill summer camp, nearly 200 third-grade students from across the district have been working with teachers at Finley Road Elementary School, said Jaime Cochrane, one of the summer reading program directors and assistant principal at Finley Road.
At the end of the school year, Rock Hill had 27 third-graders at risk of retention who were required to attend the summer camp. Students who are not required to attend also can sign up for extra help.
"Our kids are really thriving; they are having fun," Cochrane said. "Our teachers are enjoying the work."
Since South Carolina’s Read to Succeed Act was passed in 2014, the state has spent more than $164 million on reading coaches and summer reading camps. The programs are required by state law.
Before students are in third grade, districts work to help them reach reading goals, said Erin Baker, literacy coach at Finley Road Elementary School and a coach for the summer reading program in Rock Hill.
"We started working on this when the children were in first grade," Baker said.
The state funds the summer program, which includes a staff of certified teachers, assistants and directors, Cochrane said. Free books and supplies, transportation and meals also are provided.
During the program, students work on writing, reading and research skills, said Mabra Wayman, a summer reading camp director and assistant principal at Belleview Elementary.
The Read to Succeed legislation has helped Rock Hill be more transparent with parents and provide up-to-date information on their child's achievement, Cochrane said.
"It has opened the door for good, open communication with parents," she said.
The measures also have helped schools identify students who may be struggling, Baker said.
"It's an attempt from our legislatures to help to ensure that we have students performing on an adequate level while in elementary school," she said. "We are blessed here at the summer reading camp to offer a second chance for children who are really struggling. A lot of these children maybe wouldn't be reading at all this summer."
By the numbers
Local school districts have students who were at risk of repeating third grade at the end of 2017-18 school year based on their score on the S.C. Ready assessment.
At the end of the summer reading program, students are reassessed to determine if they are ready to move on to the fourth grade.
At Riverwalk Academy, a public K-9 charter school in Rock Hill, 100 percent of third-graders are considered proficient at reading this school year and are not at risk of repeating the grade, according to a release from the school. Riverwalk serves about 450 students from six school districts.
In September, Riverwalk had 17 third-grade students who were at risk. Since then, Robert Compton has taken over leadership of the school and interventions have been put in place, the release says. Riverwalk also runs a five-week summer reading camp.
“These results are a testament to the hard work and drive of our instructional leadership team, literacy coach, our teachers and most importantly our students," Compton said in a prepared statement.
- Rock Hill: Of 108 Rock Hill third-graders at risk for retention, 81 met an exemption and 27 were required to attend a summer reading camp. In total, 195 Rock Hill third-graders signed up for the summer reading camp.
- York: Of York's 423 third-graders, 29 students scored low enough to be at risk of retention. Of the 29, 21 met an exemption. York students also enrolled in the district's third and fourth grade summer sessions, kindergarten camp and the Boys and Girls Clubs of York County's summer camp in the district.
- Fort Mill: Fort Mill had 27 students who scored low enough to be at risk for retention, and of those 20 met an exemption and seven were required to attend the summer reading camp. Fort Mill had 23 students enrolled in the state reading camp this summer. The district also had 37 third-graders and 141 K-4th graders in the district's Lunch and Learn summer programs.
- Clover: Clover had 17 students at risk of retention. Of those, 15 students met an exemption. In total, Clover had 24 students attend the state reading camp, 14 students attend a Title 1 summer camp and six students attend a camp designed for students whose first language isn't English.
- Chester County: Chester County had 32 third-grade and 28 second-grade students participate in the summer reading camp. Of those, a few third-graders were required to attend.
- York Preparatory Academy: Out of 130 students, York Prep had three third-graders who were at risk of retention. Of those three, two met an exemption. York Prep has offered an elementary summer reading camp for four years that focuses on reading and writing. The public charter school in Rock Hill also offers math and reading camps for middle and high school students.
The Lancaster County School District was not able to provide their retention numbers by The Herald's deadline.
Information from the school districts
B.A.R.K. in the Park reading events:
B.A.R.K. (Books, Activities, Refreshments, Kickball) gatherings encourage children to read, play and interact with teachers.
- July 11: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Boyd Hill Recreation Center - 1165 Constitution Blvd in Rock Hill
- July 18: 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. at East Moore Street Park - 271 E Moore St. in Rock Hill
- August 1: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Boyd Hill Recreation Center - 1165 Constitution Blvd in Rock Hill