The Columbus City Schools' focus on getting third graders reading at grade level is paying off - but the promotion of some students is still in question.
Alison Holm has more.
According to the results of the spring Ohio Achievement Assessment, 74 percent of the Columbus City Schools' estimated 4-thousand third graders scored high enough on the reading test to move on to fourth-grade next year - up from 60 percent in the fall. Under the Third Grade Reading Guarantee Legislation passed in 2012 and taking effect this year, students who score less than 392 on the test can't be promoted. District spokesperson Jeff Warner says the increase reflects a redoubling of efforts.
"We focused a lot of attention early in the school year on providing support for our teachers, making sure that they are trained in the Literacy Collaborative program, so they are equipped with specific teaching skills and intervention strategies to help our students improve their reading and writing. We also created an online portal for our teachers with model lessons and research based strategies that they could use in their classrooms, and software so that they could track specific strategies for each student."
And Warner says there was a lot of effort from the community as well:
"We've had great response from our community, in providing 800 volunteers to help us with a Reading Buddies program, which puts adults in a one-on-one situation with our students so that they can help them build those literacy skills. We had Books on the Bus program, where bus drivers were giving books to students that they could read while going to and from school. And then we had tremendous partnerships with the Columbus Metropolitan libraries who actually remodeled their afterschool reading program so that it would mirror the district's program, and using the same materials and structure."
Ohio Department of Education spokesperson John Charleton says that's the kind of community buy-in the legislation was supposed to promote.
"...working with outside agencies and organizations to create tutoring programs, mentoring programs and additional reading programs. So we see that this has been embraced throughout the state very widely, and there's been an emphasis put on helping students learn to read. I think everyone would agree that a third-grader, when he finishes third-grade, should be able to read on a third-grade level. And if a student is only getting 60 minutes of a day, how much more does it cost to make sure that student gets 90 minutes of reading? It's a matter of priorities. And I think that we've seen is that districts are making reading a matter of priority."
While the improvement in scores means more students will be moving on, there are still students who aren't eligible to start fourth-grade in the fall. Warner says district officials began scrambling Monday to alert parents of those students that there is still a chance to prep for the test and take it again.
"Through our summer school program there's actually another opportunity for students to take the state assessment on July 8th. As well as there's also an alternate test called the Northwest Evaluation Association MAP test, and that's also accepted by the state. And so those students who've yet to meet that 392 cut score do have opportunities to take part in these two tests through our summer school program. "
The district is offering a special third grade reading program at Clinton Elementary.