December 22, 2014

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Lorain Schools release data on third-grade reading standards

Collins Lindsay LCSheriff

LORAIN — Percentages of Lorain Schools students at risk for not meeting Ohio’s new Third Grade Reading Guarantee range from 60 percent at Washington Elementary School to 26 percent at Admiral King Elementary School.

The requirement, which took effect this year, calls for all Ohio third-graders to meet a minimum score on state reading tests to advance to fourth grade in the 2014-15 school year or repeat third grade. The requirement includes exceptions for some English-as-a-second-language and special-education students.

The percentages were reported Tuesday by Superintendent Tom Tucker to the Academic Distress Commission. After four straight years of low test scores, the school district was taken over by the unelected commission in April. Lorain and Youngstown are the only Ohio school districts in academic takeover.

Lorain needs to score a C or better on annual state report cards for two out of three straight years to restore local control or Richard Ross, Ohio superintendent of instruction, could disband the commission if he decides Lorain can perform adequately without it.

Tucker said some students who fail reading requirements could be promoted to fourth grade if they pass all other requirements while still having to repeat third-grade reading classes. He described the process as convoluted.

Tucker said Washington has the highest percentage of at-risk students because that’s where English-as-a-second-language students attend school. Tucker, who took over in August 2012, scrapped former Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson’s Success for All reading program earlier this year for three programs he said are more effective.

At-risk students receive two hours of reading instruction per day, 30 minutes more than students meeting requirements. In January, Tucker said at-risk students will receive an additional 30 to 60 minutes of after-school tutoring in reading.

Commission Chairman Bill Zelei said the new programs can only be effective if teachers are better trained in them.

“If I’m in the classroom and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, why am I in the classroom?” he asked. “If we’re not implementing the instruction with integrity, then we shouldn’t be terribly surprised if it doesn’t work the way we want it to work.”

Besides more student instruction, Commission member Henry Patterson said the district also needs to give parents more tools to help their children.

“We can’t control what they do with it, but that’s half the battle,” he said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.