The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

November 21, 2013

Elementary reading scores improve in every district

Every school district in the county has made improvements in elementary reading in the past year, despite reports that Ohio’s fourth-graders have made no improvements in 10 years.

Results of the Ohio Achievement Tests for students who were third-graders in May 2012, compared to the results of the same group of students as fourth-graders in May 2013 have shown measurable improvements in each of the seven school districts.

The Ohio Acheivement Test results measured are from the May 2012 third grade reading test, and the May 2013 fourth grade reading test.

The district with the greatest improvement, raising the amount of students that were proficient or above by 14.1 percent, was Pymatuning Valley Local. 76.5 percent of 2012 third-graders tested proficient or above, but the same group of students as fourth-graders tested at 90.6 percent proficient or above.

 PV Primary School principal, Billie Fusco, said they are trying to involve parents and provide intervention to students who need it. Fusco recently held a meeting for families to explain the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, a new policy that is meant to ensure that all students are readng at grade level by the end of third grade.

“Of the 106 third grade families, 30 were represented at the meeting,” Fusco said. “It was disappointing to see such a low turn out since it is such a hot topic in education at this time. The law is quite lengthy and can be difficult to understand, so it was important for me to be able to give these parents the time to address concerns.”

She said that letters were sent home with students, a notice was put on the website, and automated phone calls were made to each family to alert them about the meeting. She said the “families that were in attendance listened attentively and I was able to answer and clarify many questions.”

“We are working very hard to ensure each child is on track for reading at their grade level. Those students identified as ‘not-on-track’ receive an extra 30 minutes of intense reading intervention on a daily basis, in addition to the 90 minutes of literacy block scheduled in daily,” Fusco said. “We had this intervention block built into the school day prior to the Third Grade Reading Law and this intense intervention has shown great success in those not on grade level in prior years.”

The intervention seems to be paying off, according to Fusco, who reports that since 2009, the percentage of fourth-graders passing the reading Ohio Acheivement Test has grown from 80 percent to 91 percent this year.

Jefferson Area Local school district also has made great improvements between Jefferson and Rock Creek Elementary schools. As a district, the percentage of fourth-graders testing proficient or above in reading was 95.3 percent — the highest percentage in the county — marking a 12.2 percent improvement over their scores as third-graders.

Jefferson Elementary School principal, Todd Tulino, said, “Just like everyone else, we’re working hard to get our students on the right level. As a district, we met the standards (on the report card), and Jefferson and Rock Creek both met the standards as individual buildings.”

Buckeye Local school district’s fourth-graders improved 6.2 percent on their scores as third-graders, with 94.1 percent of them testing proficent or above in reading. They are working toward improving even more with the help of the Third Grade Guarantee grant that allowed them to launch the Ready, Set, Read! program.

As part of Ready, Set, Read!, Kingsville and Ridgeview elementaries recently had Reading Strategy Stations set up during parent-teacher conferences to assist parents in helping thir children improve their literacy skils.

Literacy Coach for Ridgeview and Kingsville elementaries, Carol Falcione,  said parents are the first and most important teachers, so it is important that they are on the same page with current teaching strategies. “I talked to each grade level about which standard statements they were working on for the first 9 weeks (grading period), and we prepared appropriate activities.”

“The kids are excited when they see these activities and they get excited to play at home. When they share with their parents what they do at school, it becomes like play,” Falcione said.

She said that one night of conferences at Ridgeview, 65 people stopped at the Reading Strategy Stations. “The response has been so overwhelmingly positive. I thought that was a wonderful response for one night.”

Ashtabula Area City school district’s fourth-graders improved 10.5 percent on their third grade scores, with 83.7 percent testing proficient or above in reading.

Conneaut Area City school district also made a large improvement, with 11.6 percent more students testing proficient or above in reading in fourth grade than they did in third, with 87.4 percent at least proficient.

Geneva Area City school district fourth-graders improved 8.7 percent on their scores as third-graders, with 90.4 percent testing proficient or above in reading.

Grand Valley Local school district improved the least, but had the highest scoring third-graders in the county last year, with 91.8 percent testing proficient or above. The same group of students as fourth-graders raised the score to 94.6 percent reading at a proficient or greater level.

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