Nearly one in four third-graders in the Oklahoma City School District are reading below grade level and are in danger of being held back if they don’t pass an upcoming state test.
And that has district officials scrambling to provide students with additional instruction while there’s still time.
Wilbur House, director of curriculum development for Oklahoma City Public Schools, estimated Friday that 830 children — about 23 percent of the district’s 3,592 third-graders — could be retained after performing poorly on district assessments in December and January.
“If students are good readers, they are going to do well on the test,” House said. “If they are not good readers, they are not going to do well on the test.”
The assessments are used to gauge student progress and are closely aligned with the state test, which measures reading proficiency and determines advancement for the first time. The test is April 10. Scores should be available in May.
Third-graders who score unsatisfactory on the reading portion of this year’s state test will be held back in the coming school year unless they meet certain exemptions or until they can demonstrate the ability to read at a second-grade level or higher.
The exemptions put forth by the Reading Sufficiency Act include English Language Learners who have less than two years of English and are not proficient, and students with disabilities who are assessed differently.
House said “a high percentage” of those who performed poorly on the recent assessments are ELL students. However, it was unclear Friday how many could qualify for exemptions.
Most third-graders who are having difficulty with reading have not received a foundation of phonemic awareness and phonics instruction, he said.
Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, think about and work with sounds in spoken words. Phonics teaches children the relationships between letters of written language and the individual sounds of spoken language.
Students in the city district are getting up to 150 minutes of reading instruction to ensure they are ready for testing.
The district plans to offer four days of additional reading instruction over spring break, beginning March 11.
“Intersession is important because the classes and groups are smaller,” said Tierney Tinnin, district spokeswoman. “It’s another layer of support that helps get them up to grade level.”
Third-graders who don’t pass the state test can take advantage of summer reading academies and alternative tests before starting school in August and could be promoted to the fourth-grade by Nov. 1 at the latest.
The district is planning to offer a summer reading academy between July 14-25 to offer struggling students further individualized instruction, but the extra session must receive board approval.