The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 12, 2013

Local school exception to statewide reading score slump

Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Ohio’s fourth graders have shown almost no progress in reading for the past 10 years, according to the latest national report card for 2013 Mathematics and Reading.

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) reports that “Ohio’s fourth grade reading scores have made no statistically significant gains since 2003 while the average score for national public school students in the nation has gradually increased.” The newly implemented Third Grade Reading Guarantee is intended to solve the problem.

Despite the statewide slump, a local elementary school reports their students are improving. Kingsville Elementary School Principal, Traci Landis, said, “We’re doing pretty well here. This year our fourth grade reading assessment grade was 95.3 percent, and the same group of students as third graders scored 84.1 percent last year. That group improved over 10 percent in a year.”

She said part of their success is because they do small group guided reading where students are broken up into small groups and can then focus more not only on comprehension, but also on decoding. “You can get to that in a small group when you can’t always do that in a full class.”

Landis said that as a district, Buckeye schools got a Third Grade Reading Guarantee Grant that has allowed them to launch their Ready, Set, Read! program which features Family Reading Nights, Books for Breakfast, and Poetry Parties. “We want to keep the momentum going. Kingsville has always tried to get the parents in to the schools and get them reading with their kids. We want to make it a family thing.”

As part of the grant, during this week’s parent-teacher conferences, there will be tables set up with a specialist so parents can get specific tips on how to help their children in areas of reading they may be struggling with, Landis said.

The guarantee requires that schools identify students who are reading below grade level from kindergarten through third grade in order to then offer them help and intervention. The goal is to ensure that all students are reading at or above grade level before the end of their third grade year.

Other elementary schools were contacted, but did not respond prior to publication.

The third grade reading guarantee was first implemented in Florida which is, notably, the only state to have narrowed the achievement gap between black and white students in math and reading in both fourth and eighth grade.

According to the ODE, “Students who do not score at the specified level will have to remain in third grade until they demonstrate they can read on grade level.”

This year’s National Assessment of Educational Progress, more commonly known as The Nation’s Report Card, showed that “29 percent of Ohio fourth graders scored below basic on reading, a rate that has not improved since 2005. In grade 8, Ohio’s reading scores have also been flat since 2003 while the national score has been improving.”

It’s not all bad grades for Ohio students, however. The ODE reports, “Both fourth and eighth grade reports indicate Ohio is above the average score for national public school students in the nation.”