West Side News

Third-Grade Reading Guarantee

Spring testing saw marked improvement

191 third-graders -- down from 687 -- still need to pass heading into summer school intervention


According to preliminary data released by the South-Western City School District, about 84 percent of its third-graders have reached the benchmark set by the state's third-grade reading guarantee and will be able to move on to fourth grade.

That leaves 239 third-grade students who have not met the reading guarantee, but only 191 of those students must still pass the reading test, said Patrick Callaghan, assistant superintendent of curriculum.

The lower number is due to students who are exempt, including special needs students, English as a Second Language students who have not been in the country long enough, or those who have already been held back in third grade, Callaghan said.

When the reading test was first given to the district's third-graders in fall 2013, 687 students failed to reach the benchmark score, he said.

"We're really pleased with the spring numbers," Callaghan said. "It indicates the focus we had this year on helping our students improve their reading skills."

Students had to achieve a score of 392 or higher on the reading portion of the spring Ohio Achievement Assessment in order to be promoted to fourth grade.

For students who still haven't passed, the district launched a five-week reading intervention program June 9. It will run two hours a day, four days a week through July 8, said Brian Bowser, the district's executive director of elementary education.

All students who had not passed the fall reading test were invited to participate in the program, even knowing that some of them would pass it in the spring, he said.

The program is offered at no cost to families, Bowser said.

"We're trying to create a real classroom feel to the program," with a series of activities and exercises to help students improve their reading and writing skills, he said.

Seventeen teachers are leading the summer program, Bowser said.

Students will get another opportunity to take the third-grade reading test July 8.

Those students who do not pass the test on the third try will have to participate in the third-grade reading curriculum again next year, Bowser said.

But in all other subject areas, they will be instructed at the fourth-grade level, assuming assessments demonstrate that is appropriate, he said.

The district will have an undetermined number of "split" fourth-grade classrooms, where students will receive third-grade reading instruction while joining their classmates for the rest of the fourth-grade instruction, Callaghan said.

"We're confident that at the end of the summer program, we will be able to reduce the number of students who haven't reached the third-grade reading benchmark to about 90 students, or about 6 percent," Callaghan said.

In the 2012-13 school year, before the third-grade reading guarantee was implemented, about 34 percent of the district's students did not meet the state's benchmark, he said.

"To go from 34 percent to 6 percent, we would feel really good about that," Callaghan said.