By Marc Kovac
and Denise Dick
Close to 90 percent of Ohio third-graders have earned high enough scores on school reading assessments to advance to the fourth grade, according to statistics released by state education officials Tuesday.
A total of 105,681 public- school students out of 119,393 statewide and 5,878 charter students out of 8,234 met the new third- grade reading guarantee, a total of 88.5 percent and 71.4 percent, respectively.
That’s up from about 63 percent for all public- and charter-school students who took the reading tests in the fall.
In the Youngstown City Schools, 75 percent passed the reading portion of the Ohio Achievement Assessment, a 47 percent increase compared with when the test was administered in October.
“I am very pleased with the increase in the number of students in the district who passed this important test,” Superintendent Connie Hathorn said in a news release. “The reading performance of our third- grade students has been the highest priority for the district.”
Kim Davis, executive director of teaching and learning, attributed the progress to several initiatives implemented in the district.
The literacy collaborative, a comprehensive approach to connect reading and writing that focuses on meeting individual students’ needs, was initiated two years ago, but this past school year was the first full year it’s been in place.
The district provided in-school intervention to students who didn’t pass the OAA as well as after-school and summer-school assistance, Davis said.
“We were able to get the data and identify the weaknesses of students” so help could be provided, Hathorn said.
He said there was a sense of urgency from the teachers, monitoring by the principals and support from the curriculum department that contributed to the higher scores. Teachers and principals also are being held accountable, he said.
Davis also credited literacy coaches.
“There’s also awareness on the part of the students,” Davis said. “They’ve really taken this on and made it their own.”
The district hasn’t set a specific goal for next year.
“I know I won’t be happy until all of our kids pass to fourth grade,” Davis said.
Twenty districts reported all of their students met the testing requirement, including Ayersville Local in Defiance County, Stryker Local and Edgerton Local in Williams County, Ottoville Local and Kalida Local in Putnam County, Antwerp Local in Paulding County, Holgate Local in Henry County and Lordstown Local and Bloomfield-Mespo Local in Trumbull County,
“These preliminary results show that most Ohio students have mastered the reading skills they need to be successful, but more needs to be done,” state Superintendent Richard Ross said in a released statement. “We need to continue and in some cases increase our efforts to ensure every boy and girl in Ohio will have the skills necessary to be lifelong learners.”
A new state law requires third-graders who are not reading at grade level to be held back. Exceptions are made for students with learning disabilities and other issues.
Students have several opportunities to pass a test to pinpoint their reading levels. Two assessments are given during the regular school year, with another offered to affected students during the summer. Those who don’t meet third-grade reading proficiency are retained, with requirements for 90 minutes of reading instruction per school day.
Students can take fourth- grade classes in other subjects or advance midyear to that grade if their reading scores improve.