The Woodward News

Local News

February 9, 2014

Third graders preparing for reading test

Woodward, Okla. — On the eve of enacting a new law in Oklahoma that holds back third graders who fail to pass a reading proficiency exam, it is still unclear how the new requirement will impact Oklahoma students scholastically, parents emotionally and school districts financially.

The legislation, passed in 2013, is in effect now.

The 2014 spring semester will see the first set of third-graders who could be affected if they score unsatisfactorily on the Oklahoma Core Curriculum test, according to Woodward Deputy Superintendent Kyle Reynolds.

“As educators we have always believed reading is one of the most important skills,” Reynolds said. “Reading well gives kids a better chance of being successful later on in every part of their lives.”

About three months before testing begins there could be over 10 percent of Woodward third graders who could need summer remediation or who are at risk for being retained, Reynolds said.

“Right now, for this first year of the testing, these numbers are a little discouraging” he said.

The primary focus of the RSA Reading Sufficiency Act is to end simple “social promotion” and address deficiencies in the most critical skill set – reading - early on in the child’s school career, Reynolds said.  

Several other states, including Florida, Ohio and Michigan have enacted or are considering enacting similar laws, according to news reports. Florida has been practicing the third grade testing for about 10 years.

In Louisiana, this type of testing is known as “high stakes” testing. It has been a reality there since 1986 with the use of the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP), according to Bossier Parish Superintendent, D.C. Machen.

In the Louisiana system, students in the fourth and eighth grade must score satisfactorily on the LEAP test or be remediated or retained. Recently, the legislature there upped the ante again for Louisiana students with a new, more challenging set of standards, Machen said.

Because of the more rigorous requirements set out early as a benchmark by Bossier Parish administrators before the latest legislation took effect, students there performed well on the new, harder tests, Machen said.  This helped the district rank in the top 16 school districts in the state, Machen said.  

 Already Oklahoma schools have enacted a similar approach related to graduating high school students who must take the End of Instruction exam. That exam is aimed at determining how well students are prepared for college, Reynolds said.  

The new legislation regarding third graders is critical to the future success of Oklahoma students. It aims to end the social promotion of children who cannot read and therefore are not prepared to tackle the more difficult subjects as grade levels increase, said State Superintendent, Janet Barresi.

“The question often posed to me is: How can we consider holding back a child from moving on to the next grade,” Barresi said. “The question I pose to them is: How can we consider promoting a child who can’t read.”

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