Youngstown prepares to meet third grade challenge

By Denise Dick


The city school district is training teachers and testing students to try to prepare for a law that would require students to be retained in third grade if they aren’t reading at grade level.

Douglas Hiscox, deputy superintendent for academic affairs, told school-board members at a meeting Tuesday that 32 percent of the district’s kindergartners through third-graders are reading below grade level.

“That 32 percent is not extremely alarming because it shows the students who are below proficient at the beginning of the school year,” he said. “It’s a benchmark. It’s the end of the year that’s important. Indications are that there are not near that number of students needing intervention.”

The district has formed a literacy collaborative to train teachers and tutors and developed intervention plans for students who aren’t proficient, the deputy superintendent said.

The students will be tested again next month and again in late April or early May to gauge their progress.

Recent press reports have found that as many as half of third- graders in some of Ohio’s largest urban school districts aren’t reading on grade level.

“Why is it happening?” Lock P. Beachum Sr., school board president, asked.

Hiscox said many students come to kindergarten never having been read to. For those students, the school district has to work to bridge the gap.

But he said he’s confident the programs and training implemented will improve students’ reading.

Superintendent Connie Hathorn said students come to school at different levels. He likened it to a baseball game.

“Some start out on third base and we don’t have to do a lot to bring them home,” he said. “Some come in on first base and some come to school never having seen a baseball diamond.”

In other business, the board accepted donations for the renovated Rayen Stadium. The stadium opened for football games this school year.

MS Consultants of Youngstown contributed $3,000 and Mark Lyden of the True North Company contributed $20,000. MS previously contributed $10,000 to the project.

Ed Matey, athletic director, said memorial bricks for a walkway at the stadium are still available. The cost is $150 for a 4 inch-by-8-inch brick and $300 for a an 8-inch-by-8-inch brick.

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