The pressure is on for thousands of third-graders who will get held back if they can't pass a reading test in April.
Wilbur House, director of curriculum development for Oklahoma City Public Schools, said Monday the performance on the test was so bad last year that 869 children would have been forced to repeat third grade.
This is the first year students actually will get held back if they don't pass the test, so students, teachers and parents are all feeling the pressure.
“It is a tragedy when a child in our public schools cannot read,” state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi told a gathering at the Capitol on Monday. “In tomorrow's world, the inability to read is a sentence to a lower quality of life. This won't happen on my watch. Oklahoma has great teachers who will help make this law succeed.”
Third-graders in Oklahoma City Public Schools, the state's largest school district, are getting up to 150 minutes of daily reading instruction to ensure they are ready for testing, which begins April 10. Test scores should be available in May.
Third-graders who score unsatisfactory on the reading portion of this year's state assessment 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.
Those exemptions include English Language Learners who have had less than two years of English and are not proficient, and students with disabilities who are assessed differently.
The Reading Sufficiency Act is a 2011 state law that requires school districts to identify children who are significantly behind, contact their parents and work to fix the problem, typically through increased reading instruction.
The state already requires districts to test students in prekindergarten through third grade for reading proficiency, officials said.
Students in the Oklahoma City district required to repeat the third grade could be assigned to traditional or transitional classrooms beginning in August, House said, pointing out that teachers would be familiar with the students who are being retained and work with them to help them improve their reading.
Summer reading academies and alternative assessments could be offered to help retained third-graders, and they could be promoted to the next grade level by Nov. 1 at the latest.
“The goal of the district is to improve reading instruction and reading performance in order for students to be successful,” House said. “Reading is the key to learning. If a student reads well, then they can do well in all of the subject areas.”