Ohio adds more chances for third-graders to pass reading

Alternative assessment to be released by state next month and summer offering of OAA.
MCT Regional News
Jan 13, 2014

About 1,300 third-grade pupils in Butler County are joined by 31,600 across the state at risk of being retained from entering fourth grade due to falling below the state standard for reading.

Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee, a bill signed into law by Gov. John Kasich in summer 2012, requires third-grade students who don’t meet a minimum qualifying score of 392 on the Ohio Achievement Assessment to be retained. Retention was optional following the 2012-13 school year but will be required at the end of this school year.

“(The student) has multiple opportunities to return passing scores,” said Keith Millard, assistant superintendent of instruction for Hamilton City Schools.

Those opportunities include the October OAA, the April OAA and two new opportunities: an alternative assessment being released by the state next month and a summer offering of the OAA.

In Hamilton, 264 students fell below the 392 score following the October testing, but Millard estimates the district will only need to retain between 30-40 students after the additional OAA tests are taken.

He said it’s not unusual for a high number of students to fall below the standard on the fall OAA because it tests the minimum skills that should be mastered by the end of that school year.

For the majority of students that fell below the standard, districts had already created Reading Improvement and Monitoring Plans — part of the law — following a reading diagnostic test given by Sept. 30 each year to identify students off track for reading skills.

“A student having great difficulty with reading and third grade material may not be prepared for other fourth grade work,” Millard said.

Students who don’t read proficiently by the third grade make up nearly 60 percent of all high school dropouts, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In addition, the foundation reports that one in six students who don’t read proficiently in third grade will not graduate from school on time.

To help those students in need, the Hamilton district has been offering an intervention block during the school day for students in grades K-8 for reading and math, as well as after-school intervention for students struggling with the OAA, according to Terri Fitton, director of elementary programs.

The Hamilton district will also be giving students a series of assessments from now until April to identify specific areas of weakness that groups of teachers will work to improve.

John Charlton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education, said the current minimum score of 392 is anticipated to eventually increase to meet the level of proficiency, a score of 400.

To be exempt from retention, students must:

Score a 392 or better on either the fall or spring OAA;

Be limited English proficient students who’ve been enrolled in U.S. schools for less than three full school years, with less than three years of instruction in English as a Second Language;

Be special education students whose Individualized Education Program exempts them from retention under the Third Grade Reading Guarantee;

Have received intensive remediation for two years and been previously retained once in K-3; or

Demonstrate reading competency on a reading OAA alternative approved by ODE.

Kathy Goodpastor of Middletown, who has two boys enrolled at Miller Ridge Elementary School in Middletown, said she believes the number of state and federal-mandated assessments is too high for young students. In Middletown, 225 students fell below the state standard following the October testing.

“Absolutely reading is the fundamental skill in school,” Goodpastor said. “It’s not the principle I am opposed to but the pressure and testing. The pressure is incredible.”

Goodpastor said her third grade son, who passed the fall reading OAA, dealt with “two years of nail-biting, stomach-ache inducing worry” when he learned of a test that could separate him from his friends.

Goodpastor said her family moved the children to Miller Ridge from another Middletown school because of the “amazing” resources at Miller Ridge. She said even though her son tested as reading at a seventh grade level, he was still too young to understand that he would pass the fall test.

“My blame is on the federal mandates that started with No Child Left Behind and trickled down from there; it’s treating all kids like they’re the same person,” Goodpastor said. “We are thrilled with Miller Ridge, the principal and teachers and think they are doing the best they can do under these federal mandates.”

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By Hannah Poturalski - Journal-News, Hamilton, Ohio (MCT)

©2014 the Journal-News (Hamilton, Ohio)

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