Woodward, Okla. —
The basic spirit of the law requires third grade students to take a reading test called the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test (OCCT) every year, beginning in April this year. Based on how they perform on that exam, they will either be promoted or retained, Reynolds said.
Also, as a part of the new law, students in kindergarten, first and second grade will now undergo assessments throughout the school year to make sure in each grade level, students are hitting the mark, Reynolds said. This way they are better prepared to read at the third grade level when testing time comes, Reynolds said.
But Reynolds said some parents are a little panicked that something as significant as holding a child back a grade is being determined by one single day and one single test.
He understands the concern of the parents but wants to sooth some of their fears.
“It’s not that cut and dry,” Reynolds said.
For instance, already, at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year the reading skills of Woodward third-graders have been being assessed using a host of assessment tools that allow teachers and parents to know if their child is reading at grade level, Reynolds said.
“By now parents should know where their student is on his or her reading ability,” Reynolds said. “We have finished the first semester and have had one set of parent-teacher meetings already.”
These assessments are giving the teacher, administrators and parents the information they need to provide intensive and reading focused tutoring throughout the year, he said. This assistance has been aimed at helping them reach the level of reading that will allow them to pass the RSA test in April.
If a child does not pass the test, there are still some goal focused solutions offered by the school, such as more tutoring and a summer reading academy that can help students reach the goal over the summer and be promoted.
“Retaining a student is the last resort,” Reynolds said.
According to the law, students who do not pass the exam could possibly be exempt from being retained for “good cause” reasons such as; Students who are still learning English and have less than two years of English language training, some students with disabilities and several other exemptions regarding students who have had two years of approved remediation, but still are deficient in reading.
To achieve the new standard set out by the law, it now falls upon the school districts to hire tutors, schedule and provide remediation and provide teachers with continuing education on better strategies to teach reading, Reynolds said.
The district has about $32,000 of RSA funding that they can use to that end, Reynolds said.
That said, the most fiscally effective method and one that works better than all the tutors in the world are parents who get with their children and read with them every night, he said.
Parents hold the real power to opening the world of adventure through books, he said.
“It is well known that parents who read early to their children have children who learn to love to read,” Reynolds said.