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On third-grade reading, 'one test' never the deciding factor

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: August 3, 2014

IN 2011, state lawmakers voted to require third-graders to repeat a grade if they read at a first-grade level or lower. But with that mandate set to take effect this year, lawmakers buckled and reversed course, declaring “one test on one day” should not have such consequence.

But retention was never based on one test on one day, as new figures from school districts prove.

In the Oklahoma City school district, 998 students failed the state reading test. Sixty-seven were exempted from the retention mandate because they spoke English as a second language and had less than two years of English instruction. Another 67 were exempted because they were students with disabilities. Another 79 students passed an alternative reading test. One student passed by providing a portfolio demonstrating reading competency.

Also, another 118 children were exempt from retention because they were students with disabilities with an individualized education plan who had already been retained once. Another 10 students were exempted because they had previously been retained.

Thus, 342 students failed the test but were allowed to advance to the fourth grade anyway under exemptions in place since 2011. Clearly, the system already included substantial exemptions, and also alternative methods for a child to prove reading proficiency. Retention never hinged solely on the results of a single test.

It’s also worth noting that the reading law allowed a third-grade student to advance to the fourth grade even if that child was a year behind. There were 654 Oklahoma City students whose scores indicated they read at a second-grade level; those children were never subject to mandatory retention and have been promoted to fourth grade. Only functionally illiterate children were subject to possible mandatory retention.

Yet state lawmakers decided even more exemptions were needed. They added one that was far more subjective. Under a new law, children reading at a first-grade level or lower who fail to pass alternative tests, aren’t learning English as a second language and who don’t have learning disabilities can still be socially promoted. Such promotions require only the support of the child’s parents and a group of local school officials.

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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