FCAT Summer Reading Camps

One out of every three third-graders is eligible for reading camp after failing their FCATs this year. Thousands won’t improve enough to move on, but as the state believes, every child who goes through reading camp will still be a success story.

For five weeks, third graders in a voluntary summer reading camp drill on phonics, learn vocabulary and read stories. The stakes are high. They’ve failed their third grade FCAT at least once, in some cases twice, but if they pass a test at the end, they can move on to fourth grade.

Nine-year-old McKenzie Handsford already thinks the intense focus is paying off.

Teacher Michele Hormer says at first, getting these children reading is tough.

Michele says, “Because it’s a challenge to them, it has become something they don’t want to do, something that they avoid, so it’s getting them back to finding an interest in and a joy and love for reading.

Even after five weeks of intensive effort, only about one out of four children will move on to fourth grade, but the state says there’s a larger goal.

At least 2,000 children could be held back a second time if they still don’t pass the test at the end of reading camp, but Just Read, Florida! director Mary Laura Openshaw says it’s not about the numbers.

Mary Laura Openshaw says, “The goal of these camps is that a student leave the camp a stronger reader than when they entered, regardless of whether they’re going to spend some more time in third grade or move on to fourth grade.”

That would be a tough break for 10-year-old Douglas Gaer, but watch his eyes light up when he talks about his new favorite books.

That spark is what educators hope to kindle in struggling third graders around the state this summer. This is the third year Florida has had summer reading camps for children who fail their third grade FCAT.

State officials say many districts have expanded their camps dramatically since they first started in 2003. Several now offer full-day classes, breakfast, lunch and transportation.