Delaware News

District works to get third-grade readers up to speed

Handful of students at risk of failing state test on final attempt would be placed in blended classrooms

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Third-Grade Reading Guarantee results are in, and the Delaware City School District already is working with students who didn't pass.

Thirty Delaware third-graders failed the state test last spring. However, 19 of those students are exempt because they are in Individualized Education Programs for those with special needs.

The passage rate was 92.9 percent, topping last year's 89 percent rate.

The 11 remaining students who could be held back due to their test results had the opportunity to attend an intensive summer-school program that culminates in another chance to take the test.

Ten students took advantage of the summer-school option, and Superintendent Paul Craft said he is confident that several of them will pass the test when it's administered this summer.

"We are putting our 8-year-olds through high-stake testing -- something that many of us didn't have to go through until we were 17 years old," Craft said. "But these students are amazingly resilient."

The test is 50 questions, with a mix of multiple choice, short-answer and extended-answer questions. The scores are scaled and, according to the Ohio Department of Education, the possible range of scores on the test is 260 to 503. Students who failed to reach the passing score of 392 in the fall or spring are supposed to be held back. Eventually, any student who scores below 400, which is considered proficient, will be retained.

In Delaware, students who are not able to earn the cutoff score of 392 on the test will be placed in classrooms that combine two grade levels.

"They will be put in a blended third- and fourth-grade classroom and receive additional supplemental third-grade reading instruction," Craft said.

He said he has not seen any research on how retention helps students develop, but he has read plenty of research that indicates holding a student back has no benefits.

"We will still be promoting them to a blended fourth-grade classroom, but provide third-grade instruction so that they can retake the test when they are ready at any point during the year," Craft said.

Craft said there are multigrade classrooms in every building and within every grade, adding it's just one more way to meet the needs of students.

He said he was not a fan of the Third-Grade Reading Guarantee initially, but he was pleased to see that students have grown since last year and said he believes Ohio teachers have been pushing students to do better.

"I believe that across the state, this has helped focus our efforts and find out what might hold our third-grade students back from passing," Craft said.

He said he believes the test is a fair evaluation.

"When you have a blanket level that everyone must pass, you can't set it too low or too high, and I believe this was a pretty good cutoff for all students," Craft said.

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