Athens Elementary Schools Develop Plans For Struggling Readers

By
Arian Smedley - Athens Messenger staff reporter

Dateline
Updated Thu, Jan 2, 2014 10:35 am
Photo Credit: 
Flickr user Spirit-Fire
Reading, an activity that stimulates mental processes, can help preserve memory skills as we grow older.

With the fall Ohio Achievement Assessment results in, officials at the Athens City School District have identified 60 third graders who failed to hit the cut-off score for the reading portion of the test. How well the students do on that section when they take it again in the spring will be key in determining whether they’ll be held back a grade, as dictated in the new law called the Third Grade Reading Guarantee.

Of Athens City School district’s 179 tested third-graders, 60 students (or 33.5 percent) did not make the cut-off score of 392, according to

Tom Parsons, the district’s director of curriculum and development. (A breakdown of which elementary schools those students attend wasn’t immediately available.) He added those results are expected when considering the OAAs test students on what they should know at the end of the third grade.

So in other words, of the district’s 179 third-grade students, 119 are already performing as they should at the end of the third grade, Parsons said.

Those who are struggling have at least two more shots at improving their grade, according to the Ohio Department of Education. The OAAs are administered a second time in the spring, and those test scores are typically higher, officials have said. ODE officials have also said they will be offering another exam for students who receive summertime instruction. Details on that exam, however, have yet to be released.

Between now and then, as dictated by the legislation, Athens teachers have been implementing various measures to help those struggling students. Some of those measures include small group instruction, tiered intervention or using multiple teachers.

While the OAA is important, in actuality, it’s a first shot at an end-of-year exam. The diagnostic administered at the beginning of the year more accurately identifies those who are struggling because it determines whether a student is on track at that time, Parsons said.

Based on the results from the diagnostics, Athens City Schools identified 35 students who were not on track. As outlined in the law, those students are then given a Reading Improvement and Monitoring Plan (also known as a RIMP).

When it comes to retention, there are several exceptions to the law, which went into full effect this school year. For example, students who are learning English as a second language and those who are on Individual Education Plans, which are designed for students with disabilities, are exempt from being retained.

And retention can look very different depending on the student. For example, students who are performing at the fourth-grade level in other areas “may be retained on paper,” Parsons explained. A student could be classified as a third-grader and be receiving reading intervention services, but that same student could be sitting in a fourth-grade classroom for all the other subjects.

In addition, should a student be retained but he or she show significant progress soon enough, the student could be promoted midyear.

Schools won’t know until the end of June, when the spring OAA results are in, how many students the law impacts, but Parsons anticipates at least 20 won’t make the mark.

“Is that sufficient time to deal with the situation? No,” Parsons said, adding the next school year begins in August. “We’ll have to be flexible. Not all struggling students are created equal. The more specific and targeted approach we take, the better we’re going to be at helping these students. I think that was probably, under the best of intentions, what the Guarantee hoped would happen.”

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