Nearly 30 percent of Columbus City Schools third-graders could have been held back this year if a new state law had gone into effect when it was supposed to.
Columbus City Schools officials, as well as those at other schools and community programs in central Ohio, are putting full intervention programs in place now to make sure that does not happen this upcoming school year, when the state law will be enforced.
Sarah Mackey heads up the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Ready To Read Corps.
“We, at the library, work with parents to get kids ready so they can succeed when they walk in the school doors, and they’re ready to learn,” said Sarah Mackey, the Corps manager at the libraries.
The program serves between 1,000 and 1,500 families a year in six target neighborhoods. The library works closely with the Columbus City School district.
Library members make home visits and cover everything from reading and writing to engaging around books.
“We feel like individually, we are really making a difference,” Mackey said. “Large scale, we need all members of the community to come together around this crisis.”
She calls it a crisis because 40 percent of children are not ready to handle a curriculum when they start school.
She said she thinks that could be why nearly 30 percent of Columbus City Schools third-graders fell below the benchmark proficiency reading test score of 390 during the 2012-13 school year.
“That’s a large order, and we have limited resources,” Mackey said.
Just released test scores from the Columbus City School district suggest more intervention might be necessary.
The data shows that 1,192 of Columbus third-graders failed to hit the reading proficiency score on the spring test.
According to records from the South-Western City School District, 275 third-graders there – nearly 20 percent – fell short.
In Dublin, 64 students, or roughly 6 percent, didn’t make the mark.
“I think that score represents what a normal, average student would be able to perform at the third-grade level,” said Richard Ross, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
In Pickerington, nearly two dozen third-graders fell below expectations.
“By the time you drop back to 390, you’re really in a range where you probably are not strong in grade three reading skills or expected reading skills,” said Pickerington Teaching and Learning academic advisor Sandy Meigel. “You’re probably reading independently at a level below a third-grade level.”
In Pickerington, a summer reading intervention program is designed to help catch students up.
“Up until third grade – kindergarten to third – they’re learning to read, but from third grade on, they’re reading to learn,” said Pickerington’s Meigel. “Reading skill is very important for success in all content areas, and that’s why it’s so critical at that third-grade point.”
Columbus City Schools has an intervention program, too.
According to a Columbus City Schools spokesman, the district’s kindergarten through third-grade summer intervention program is focused only on reading and writing. In the past, math instruction has been included in the curriculum.
The number of days for summer school has also been extended from 15 to 23.
The spokesman said that every day, students are engaged in reading and writing activities that include guided writing instruction and small group reading instruction.
A new effort slated for this fall will bring intervention to preschoolers. The program is a collaborative partnership with Learn for Life.
In 2014, those who don’t pass the third-grade reading proficiency test will be held back. Under the law, limited English speakers, special education students and students with individualized education plans are exempt from the law.
But even after removing those students from the pool, Columbus schools still would have had 776 third-graders with below-bar reading test scores.
Not all of those students will be held back, though.
If students are passing all other subjects on the test, they could be able to move forward to the fourth grade in those subjects. They still would be held back to a third-grade reading curriculum.
“The law is about the student being at the appropriate reading level for instruction,” Ross said. “Now, I can tell you, when I was superintendent at Reynoldsburg, (if) a student wasn’t able to read at a third-grade level, (he) would end up being in a third-fourth grade reading class.”
Ross said the law is not about punishment, it’s about the skills and knowledge they have.
“It’s about appropriateness in learning and trying to make sure there’s continuous progress on the part of the student, so they can control and have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful,” Ross said.
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