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Third grade reading scores drop in Mahoning Valley

Published: Sat, December 14, 2013 @ 12:07 a.m.

By Denise Dick


Preliminary test scores show that most Mahoning Valley third-graders are struggling more with reading this year.

Most Mahoning Valley school districts saw a drop in the number of third-graders who scored proficient or above on the Ohio Achievement Assessment reading test this year, compared with the fall 2012 test.

Students took the tests in October.

In Mahoning County, all of the districts except Jackson-Milton, Western Reserve and Sebring saw a drop in the percentage of third-graders scoring at proficient or above, compared with October 2012. Sebring’s percentage stayed the same while Jackson-Milton and Western Reserve saw an increase.

In Trumbull County, Bristol, Brookfield, Joseph Badger, Liberty and Mathews saw increases while all of the other districts saw their numbers dip.

In Columbiana County, Columbiana, Crestview, Lisbon and Wellsville saw increases. Southern Local stayed the same, and the rest of the districts’ percentages slipped.

Linda Ross, director of instruction at Boardman schools, said that because the test is administered early in the school year, the scores may show that students have difficulty making connections to what they’ve learned in the past.

Some students make those connections more naturally. “Some students may need help to make those connections,” Ross said.

Seventy-two percent of Boardman’s third-graders scored at proficient or above on this year’s reading test compared with 79 percent in fall 2012.

Ross said Boardman schools have programs in place to identify students who need help and tailor instruction accordingly.

“It’s no longer one-size-fits-all,” Ross said.

She likened it to a person buying clothes off the rack or having them altered to fit.

“If you make alterations, it’s going to fit you better,” Ross said. “Tailored instruction is the type of instruction that’s going to last a long time.”

Gov. John Kasich signed legislation last year allowing third-graders to be held back if they are not able to read at an appropriate level. The new law also calls for reading assessments of students starting in kindergarten, with increased identification and parental notification of deficiencies and targeted teaching intervention for struggling students.

Statewide, 56 percent of third-graders were proficient or higher on the preliminary tests.

Youngstown fell from 27 percent proficient or above last year to 21 percent this year.

Doug Hiscox, deputy superintendent of academic affairs, said the low percentage is cause for concern. But he believes the district has the right programs in place to address the problem.

This marks the first full year for the city schools’ literacy collaborative, a reading program for all students, as well as the leveled literacy intervention model — an intervention program that provides 90 minutes of daily reading instruction as well as 30 minutes of reading intervention for students who need it.

Those programs were in the district for only part of last year.

Poland’s percentage fell from 83 percent at proficient or above last fall to 64 percent this year.

“I’m absolutely concerned seeing this kind of drop at that rate is unacceptable,” said Superintendent David Janofa.

State officials told the district to expect a drop, but he wasn’t expecting such a dramatic slip.

“We’re concerned, we’re worried, and we’re looking what we need to do to address it,” Janofa said.

Austintown fell from 71 percent last year to 54 percent this year.

Superintendent Vince Colaluca said 50 percent to 55 percent is normal for the district, and last year’s results were exceptionally high. The district uses not only the preliminary tests, but teacher input and other sources to determine when students need more help and the best ways to provide it in reading and other core subject areas.

The test results released Friday were for a beginning-of-the-year test, he said.

In Trumbull, Liberty’s scores jumped from 48 percent scoring at proficient or above last year to 62 percent this year. Superintendent Stan Watson said the district has a number of programs in place to address reading in the elementary grades, and Pam McCurdy, curriculum director, is the architect of that.

McCurdy said the district works to identify students at the beginning of the school year through diagnostic assessments.

“We have intervention in place for those kids,” she said.

Besides help from classroom teachers, the district also provides more intensive intervention for those students who need it.

“It’s very specific help for at-risk kids to close that gap,” McCurdy said. “Mentors have come in to focus skills where students might be lacking.”

Intervention can range from in-class to small group to one-on-one, depending on students’ needs.


1timmy572(4 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Formerdemliberal I'm impressed. Sounds like you have all the answers. Maybe you can volunteer in the Youngstown City School districts to help make a change.

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2domesticgoddess(4 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

The elephant in the room that will never be addressed is the parents/homelife of the children who aren't learning.

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3southsidedave(5185 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

I agree with domesticgoddess...everything begins at home...parents must take a proactive stand

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4GoPens(397 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Domesticgoddess hit the nail on the head. Compare families 20 years ago to today.

Then of course there are blowhard know-it-all's like formerdemliberal who like to act all tough and knowing and yet offer no solutions in the meantime.

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5Education_Voter(1122 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Worry about your own reading comprehension and grammar.

Youngstown did not have a "drop of 22%". They had a drop of 6%.

The test is supposed to measure whether children at the end of third grade read at (the presumed) third grade level. Chidren took this test at the beginning of the 3rd grade year, before instruction.

Children who pass the test already are reading ABOVE GRADE LEVEL.
It will not keep me up worrying at night that only half the children in a suburb are reading above grade level, or that only a fifth of children in Youngstown are reading above grade level.

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6Education_Voter(1122 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

At what magical level of vocabulary development should your child reach at the age of 8 years old?

The state doesn't know. They just randomly set the bar. Then they test using different stories and articles each year. Some years there are more nonfiction science selections...other years there is a poem. The variations in scores is more due to the selections of the year than changes in child development.

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7Education_Voter(1122 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

"Bill Gates is wrong. American education is not 'broken'. Federal education policy is 'broken'. Testing children until they cry is a bad idea. It is educational malpractice."

Diane Ravitch
Education Historian

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8YtownParent(920 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

All good comments, but they are all part of the problem and all of them require solutions. First parents must be involved. It is the parents job to turn off the TV and video games and read with their children. Sending your kid to their room to read while you watch the latest episode of some moronic reality show or crush candy on your phone isn't supporting their education.

Teachers, administrators, board members and state officials need to take full responsibility for the positions they hold. Public education is based on the premise that the state and school boards can and will provide a better education than if parents were doing it all at home. It is their job to do it and instead of offering problems as excuses they need to say they are problems and offer solutions.

If testing two months into the school year is a problem because kids have trouble making connections to what they learned last year, then educators need to be on the front lines advocating for a year round school year instead of fighting against that particular reform. If students have trouble with test selections alternating between fiction, poetry and nonfiction then teachers need to take the tv's out of their classrooms and teach from books instead of science, social studies, etc. videos.

Everyone needs to stop blaming everybody but themselves and actually behave as if they believe "education is a partnership" instead of a using it is an finger to point at everyone else.

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9domesticgoddess(4 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Who is going to read to the kid if mom is entertaining "gentlemen callers" bearing "recreational substances"? These kids do go to school--how motivated and excited by learning can we imagine a child to be under those circumstances? Not all that uncommon a scenario
these days, in ANY school system, in any town, in any state, on any given day.

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10DontBanThisDrone(1013 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago


That mom in your comment is ultimately a product of our educational system.

formerdemliberal called it, you all lined right up, lol.


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11YtownParent(920 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Sadly I have to agree that what you describe is not a an uncommon scenario, but it is not so common that it is what goes on in 28% of the homes in Boardman and 37% in Poland nor 46% of the homes statewide. That is the type of exaggerated excuse that needs to stop because it does nothing but dodge the responsibilities educators do have. When the scenario you describe happens (and it does at times), the teachers do have a legal obligation to follow mandatory reporting procedures and contact their local children's services boards and/or cops every time a student comes in and mentions that going on in their home. The CSB's and police also have a legal obligation to be at that home following up on the teacher's call the day the teacher reports it.

The who is doing what in the classroom and at home blame game could easily be solved and possibly more cost effectively by creating public wi-fi networks across the school districts. Then instead of wasting money on quickly outdated textbooks students get a cheap tablet or net-book. Require parents to log in each night and review the days lessons with their kids. Require teachers to have those lessons on the network to be reviewed. But that will never happen because most parents and most teachers aren't willing to put that much effort into kid's education. Most teachers and most parents are happy with the status quo. Unfortunately the only thing that guarantees is that the staus quo of our economy and our society will continue to drop over the next few generations until the United States becomes a quaint footnote of history.

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12iBuck(231 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

I'm starting to wonder what their definitions of "proficient" are and how they've changed over time. Are more children actually illiterate, or do they just have more trouble with bigger, less common words like antidisestablishmentarianism, acetylcholinesterase or eleemosynary?

(Geo-political changes have relieved them from having to master one of my favorite 3rd grade spelling challenges: Czechoslovakia, but do they know where the Uighurs live? Or why Good Uncle Wenceslaus was feasting on St. Stephen's day, or why his brother Cruel Grandpa Boleslaw had him assassinated? Do they even have regular spelling bees in 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th grades, anymore? It's beginning to seem like spelling bees might be a good idea through high school in some places.)

Sure, some short-hand like "proficient" is handy, but it's good to be able to refer back to the definitions of those short-hand terms well enough to make judgments, and to have a widely-held good grasp on how those definitions have shifted over time.

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