Friday, December 6th, 2013
By William Kincaid
Schools ready third-graders for next test
  Third-graders who failed the reading portion of the Ohio Achievement Assessment test in the fall are getting extra help to improve their chances of passing it when it is administered again in the spring.
As part of the state's new Third Grade Reading Guarantee, students, except those on individualized education programs, must pass the test given in the fall, spring and summer - or an alternative test that, according to John Charlton of the Ohio Department of Education, is still in the works - to proceed to fourth grade.
Fort Recovery Elementary Principal Tracy Hein-Evers said students who fail the reading test but are doing well in math, science and social studies will move on to the fourth grade, where they'll "have third grade language arts curriculum until they are on track."
Official ODE results will not be released until Dec. 13, but according to local school officials, third grade class passage rates of the reading test are as follows: Coldwater, 87 percent; St. Henry, 80 percent; Fort Recovery, 71 percent; Celina, 65.5 percent; Marion Local, 75 percent; Minster, 84 percent; New Bremen, 83 percent; Parkway, 67 percent; and St. Marys, 65 percent.
Principals said intervention and other programs are in place to help students who failed to obtain a successful score the first time.
"This (passage rate of 65 percent) is down from previous years; for example, last year the passage rate in the fall was 76 percent," St. Marys Superintendent Shawn Brown said. "Teachers are analyzing the results and will make the necessary instructional adjustments. Specific intervention will be administered for those students who did not pass."
Progress will be monitored and updates will be shared with parents, Brown said.
Minster Elementary Principal Leanne Keller said students potentially affected by the guarantee have been receiving extra reading support since the beginning of the year.
"Our overall number of students who have not yet passed is typical of what we have seen in years past for Minster," Keller said. "We are waiting on state-generated reports to share individual student score information with our parents."
Marion Local Elementary Principal Nick Wilker has met with all third grade teachers to review a list of students who failed the test and develop intervention plans.
"We are in the process also of talking about additional enrichment opportunities we can provide as a district on specific test-taking strategies and reading/math interventions prior to the spring test," Wilker said. "This has also provided us with additional data on overall classroom instructional shifts that need to take place as well as data for potential special education referrals."
Ohio's fourth-graders, according to an ODE press release, have shown virtually no progress in reading during the past 10 years.
"That's why the Third Grade Reading Guarantee is so important. It is imperative that students can read on a third grade level or higher when they complete the third grade," said superintendent of public instruction Dr. Richard A. Ross. "In Ohio, we have to do a better job of teaching our children - all of our children - to read. Their success as they continue through school and after they graduate from high school is dependent upon their ability to read."
Parkway Superintendent Greg Puthoff agrees reading comprehension is crucial but opposes basing student progression to the next grade level on a test.
"We all know certain students who don't take tests well," he told the newspaper.
The decision to retain a student in the third grade should be made in cooperation of the parent, teacher and principal, he argued, noting there are times when a student should be held back.
But Puthoff is anticipating good improvement with the test in the spring, explaining those students at risk are getting extra help with reading and test-taking skills and great strides should be made in the coming months.
School officials at Fort Recovery, who reached out to state Rep. Jim Buchy, R-Greenville, have long voiced concern about treating reading as a black-and-white issue and pinning a student's chance to ascend to the next grade to a test score. In the past, they pushed for an alternative assessment that would give students who fail the test another chance to move ahead.
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