The blitz is on.
Columbus City Schools officials have launched a so-called reading blitz, saying they will do everything in their power to give nearly 700 students the opportunity to pass the Ohio Achievement Assessments third-grade reading proficiency test.
District officials gathered June 24 at Weinland Park Elementary School to lay out plans to get the remaining students, 26 percent of third-graders, in summer school or other reading programs. If they do not pass the tests, they could be held back in the coming school year under the new Ohio Third-Grade Reading Guarantee.
Board president Gary Baker said the district has made some progress in the area.
For example, 74 percent of district third-graders met the 392 cut score on the test. That number of students passing is a 32-percent improvement over 2013.
"Progress in our third-grade reading performance has been impressive," Baker said.
Superintendent Dan Good said some schools have shown dramatic progress.
At the Hamilton STEM Academy, there was an increase of 45.6 percent on the test, he said.
Still, CCS has much more to do, because 956 students as of last week had yet to pass the reading test.
That has led to the blitz.
The district will make 695 home visits to get those students enrolled in summer school.
Officials already have made direct calls to students' households and sent letters to parents.
Those attending summer school will be given free busing, breakfast and lunch.
Some of the 956 who have yet to pass the test already are enrolled in summer school, officials sad.
Students have only two more opportunities to pass the test: July 8 and July 19, when an alternate assessment test will be offered.
The district has been on a rigorous mission to create reading advantages for students. CCS has partnered with several local agencies, including the Columbus Metropolitan Library, to help students achieve the reading objective.
Good said the Reading Buddies program, in which adults help children read, attracted 800 volunteers.
CML collected 7,000 books to give to students. The district also initiated Books on the Bus, where youngsters are encouraged to read to and from school.
Good acknowledged the district needs to provide permanent opportunities throughout the year and not just react to the academic time crunch.
Patrick Losinski, Columbus Metropolitan Library CEO, said it appears the interventions have been working.
"I think first off we're thrilled with community response," he said.
"Obviously, like the schools, we know we have work in front of us."
Losinski said he'd like to get a jump start on helping kids in grades K-2.
"It's a full commitment," he said. "It's not a one-year commitment."