Reading trouble could mean repeating third grade
Many third-graders could be held back next school year if they fall short of minimum scores on the state reading test.
The Third Grade Guarantee, approved last summer by Ohio lawmakers, requires all schools in the state to assess the reading skills of students in kindergarten through third grade by Sept. 30 and provide intervention services to those who are reading below grade level.
The new standards require schools to hold back third-graders who score below 392 on state reading tests, with exceptions for students with special needs.
“I’m not saying I support it,” said Superintendent Bernie Hall at the Sept. 18 Madison-Plains school board meeting. “I have my doubts because some kids at third grade are not at that level, and we’re going to have a bottleneck the way the law is written today. But we have our ducks in order.”
The district has started the testing process, using state assessments and informal reading techniques to help ease students’ nerves about being tested so much to begin the school year. With the Ohio Achievement Assessment quickly approaching for third-grade students, the district has worked hard to not feel the pinch of the Sept. 30 deadline.
“We have a plan in place for how to identify these students that the state calls off-track,” said curriculum director Karen Grigsby.
The district began testing early, using a dual focus plan which uses state testing and district determined benchmarks to determine whether or not a student is on-track.
“Even though we disagree that the kids should be held back at the third-grade level, it is a good goal that all kids are able to read by the time that they leave us,” Grigsby said. “We need to be focused on that piece of it. Even if they don’t reach that goal, we need to ask if we are moving kids forward in their ability to read.”
Board members and administrators voiced concerns about the unfunded mandate, saying it focused too much on the scores of one test rather than on students’ overall development and ability to perform at grade level.
“It’s not right for the kids,” Hall said. “I think we should join some of the other schools and protest this. Some of the other schools are actually looking for legal advice.”
Board President Dave Hunter agreed.
“They keep putting all these stipula-tions on us. Until they can come back and say how they are going to help us fund this and until, Mr. Hall, you get all the school districts to stand up to the state and tell them, ‘No, we’re not going to do that,’ we’re stuck,” he said.
Grigsby said the district is providing support for not only students, but also teachers who will receive professional development regarding the new standards.