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Oklahoma's third-graders read up for second chance to enter fourth grade

Many Oklahoma children who failed a state reading test will be retained if they fail alternative assessments this week.
by Tim Willert Modified: July 20, 2014 at 10:00 am •  Published: July 20, 2014


photo - 
A student works in the reading academy on Friday for third-graders who are reading below grade level, including those who failed a state reading test and could be held back at Willow Brook Elementary School. Photos by David McDaniel, The Oklahoman
  David McDaniel - 
The Oklahoman
A student works in the reading academy on Friday for third-graders who are reading below grade level, including those who failed a state reading test and could be held back at Willow Brook Elementary School. Photos by David McDaniel, The Oklahoman David McDaniel - The Oklahoman

The third-graders in Ashley Schlusler’s classroom at Willow Brook Elementary School are pretty good readers.

It’s understanding what they read that’s causing problems and elevating anxiety as another high-stakes test draws near.

“These kids, even though they can read the words, they don’t have the background knowledge and the vocabulary to understand what they read all the time,” Schlusler said.

Hundreds of students participating in a summer reading academy sponsored by Oklahoma City Public Schools are running out of time to improve their skills and could be held back when school starts Aug. 4.

The district has identified 636 third-graders who scored unsatisfactory on a state reading test in April and have yet to qualify for one of seven good-cause exemptions. All will be retained unless they pass an alternative assessment on Friday, the last day of the 10-day academy.

“The goal is to try to get them exposed to as much as we possibly can in these two weeks, so that when they take their test next week they have a better chance of passing it,” said Schlusler, 25, a first-grade teacher at Wheeler Elementary.

Third-graders who fail the assessment can retest on Aug. 8, Sept. 12 and Oct. 14, and will be promoted immediately to the fourth grade if they pass, officials said.

About 1,200 third-graders — including 514 students who failed the state test but qualified for exemptions — were invited to attend the academy at 10 school sites, including Willow Brook in northeast Oklahoma City.

Wilbur House, the district’s executive director of elementary curriculum, said third-graders who are having difficulty with reading have not received a foundation of phonemic awareness and phonics instruction.

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.

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by Tim Willert
Education Reporter
Tim Willert is a native Californian with Oklahoma ties who covers education. Prior to moving to Oklahoma in June 2011, he was as an editor for FOXSports.com in Century City, Calif., and reported on courts for the Los Angeles Daily Journal and...
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If they read OK, they’re probably having problems with processing and comprehension and understanding and analyzing the meaning of what they have read.”

Wilbur House,
Executive director, Curriculum development for Oklahoma City Public Schools

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