July 31, 2014

Elyria
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Most Lorain County third-graders pass reading level assessment

Old County Courthouse 1.jpg

Twelve 8- or 9-year-old students in Elyria could find themselves repeating third grade starting in the fall.

That’s 2 percent of the more than 450 students who were a part of Elyria’s inaugural class of students affected by the state-mandated Third Grade Reading Guarantee.

“To us, it’s always been about doing the work, finding out what students need and coming up with ways to get them there,” said Ann Schloss, Elyria’s director of academic services. “Yes, the Third Grade Reading Guarantee has a lot more teeth in it because it takes away the teacher and parent component that addresses what’s best for the child, but everything the state called for in the legislation was happening in Elyria because it’s in the best interest of the child.”

In the 2013-14 school year, third-grade students statewide took a myriad of assessments aimed at one question: Are students reading at grade level?

“These preliminary results show that most Ohio students have mastered the reading skills they need to be successful, but more needs to be done,” said state Superintendent Richard Ross. “We need to continue and in some cases increase our efforts to ensure every boy and girl in Ohio will have the skills necessary to be lifelong learners.”

Many school districts have implemented special reading programs to help students who are struggling to earn a promotion score. The Ohio Department of Education also provided $13 million in grants to nearly 100 applicants for programs to provide extra help to students and families.

Locally, Lorain County’s third-grade students fared well on state reading tests. Many passed the test administered in the spring and fall — 3,165 took that test and 2,783 passed, according to preliminary data from the state.

Districts including Amherst, Avon Lake, Avon, Columbia, Firelands, Keystone, Midview, North Ridgeville and Sheffield-Sheffield Lake all saw more than 90 percent of their third-graders pass the test with a score high enough for promotion.

In many cases, students who did not score well enough did so on alternative assessments — such as the Iowa Assessment, which Elyria uses, or the Northwest Evaluation Association-Measurement of Academic Progress, which is the alternative test of choice in Lorain — to show the state they are ready for fourth grade.

“The state smartly chose these alternative assessments because it’s wrong to just say let’s fail students based on one test taken on one day for two hours,” said Lorain Superintendent Tom Tucker. “I don’t know any district that doesn’t want to get students over that bar or have not already had intervention programs in place. Third grade is a key point in education and everyone knows that. The law just gave us an absolute to deal with.”

Lorain students fared well on the test. Of the 457 students who took the test, 307 students passed with a score of 392 or higher. When alternative assessments and exemptions are factored in, 90 percent of students met the threshold for promotion.

But that still means 46 students are at risk for retention, Tucker said.

“This is not insurmountable for us,” he said. “We have 39 of those students in an intensive summer reading program and at least one-third are within a couple of points of passing the test, which they will have another chance to do in July.”

The seven students not enrolled in the summer program are still being sought by school officials. Tucker said they could have moved out of the district or chose not to participate in the voluntary program.

In a district such as Lorain with a large number of students who are new to the English language or are identified as having special needs, getting 100 percent of students to pass a reading test is not realistic, Tucker said. However, that doesn’t mean that every attempt is not made.

“We have made tremendous gains in our reading program and a lot of students who have struggled in the past have made major gains,” he said.

Even in a district where the student population has fewer demographic swings, 100 percent passage is hard to come by. Take Midview, for example.

There, 213 students took the test and 201 passed. But of the 12 students who did not pass the reading assessment, seven are exempt, one students was already facing retention for matters beyond reading and one student has been placed at a facility outside the district.

That leaves three students at risk for retention. They are in a summer reading program, but Midview Superintendent Scott Goggins said they are not alone. A couple dozen other students who have been targeted for additional help are working with teachers for several hours a day.

“Our goal isn’t just passing students to the next level,” he said. “We believe in accountability. We want our kids reading at grade level, but we as educators know retention being used as intervention is not what is best for kids.”

Avon Superintendent Mike Laub said he is not a supporter of the mandate even though very few of the district’s students did not pass the reading test.

“We can identify when students are struggling as soon as kindergarten, first or second grade and put the right interventions in place without this so-called guarantee,” he said. “It’s not needed because retention is not intervention. Retaining a student does not solve the reading problem.”

John Charlton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education, said it may seem as if third-grade students were arbitrarily singled out by legislators, but research has proven that third grade is a much more defining school year than people realize.

“Students who are reading on grade level by third grade can control their destiny,” he said. “Students who are socially promoted, but are behind their peers, have the tendency to fade away, drop out of school and engage in behaviors that cause other problems in society.”

Charlton said credit has to be given to teachers, administrators and districts that worked together to move students along. Reading proficiency became the priority around the state with districts from urban to suburban to rural all implementing programs aimed at boosting literacy. As such, more than 110,000 third-graders, an increase of more than 25,000 students from the previous school year, are ready for fourth grade, he said.

If a student remains in the third grade, the school must provide a high-performing reading teacher and 90 minutes of reading instruction each school day in the coming school year. A student can still take fourth-grade classes in all other subjects, if the student is ready. Schools can move students to the fourth grade in the middle of the year if the student’s reading improves.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.

  • Brian_Reinhardt

    32.8% of Lorain’s third graders did not pass the test this year according to the Ohio Department of Education.

    Without the state mandated testing program where would those 150 students have been placed?

    Just like every other year…in the 4th grade.

    I’m not a proponent of big government, but in the case of Lorain City and many other urban school districts, state supervision is 100% necessary.

    There’s a charter school in Lorain that passed 100% of their third graders. Avon Lake passed 98.5% and Columbia passed 98.2%.

    Not so unrealistic.

  • Scout

    But if you don’t pass them what about their self-esteem, self image, and the parents’ embarrassment?
    If these children can’t read at a 3rd grade level they will be what is called ‘functionally illiterate’ the rest of their lives.
    The school can’t do it all. Families need to help the students get interested in reading.

  • Sis Delish

    Can’t read at the proper 3rd Grade Level?

    Instead of a promotion to 4th Grade, hand them a shovel and say, “Good Luck”.

    Then,

    Deduct that percentage of shovel-ready kids from the salaries of the responsible educators to pay for the shovels.

    • TruthWhisperer

      There are people here that can’t comprehend on a 4th grade level, Right Sis?

      • Rtgh123

        Sis would know.

        • Sis Delish

          You two thinking of getting hitched… what a nice couple you think you would make.

  • JoyceEarly

    Lorain! You have to be kidding me. 67.2%? Compared to the numbers for other schools? You can’t sugar coat this. The Lorain School District is failing our kids.

    • B4CE

      Joyce, you say, ” lorain schools are failing our kids” obviously you put the blame on the district, not the parents, but I’d like to know where? Teachers? Administrators ? Can you give a specific example or two on how the district is failing our kids? And what Lorain is doing so differently than the other districts to cause such failures on behalf of our kids?
      What , in your opinion, can be done to improve the scores?
      These aren’t trick questions, I’m just curious on how Lorain has gone so wrong in dealing with our kids

      • Pablo Jones

        The goal of school’s and teachers is to educate the kids, regardless if parents are involved in the education or not. The blame in the class room is the teachers. They should be able to identify which kids are struggling and if they are not able to or don’t have the resources to bring them up to par they need to pass that info onto their supervisors. The school admin is at fault if they do not do anything after receiving that info. The district admin and school board are at fault for hiring teachers that can’t perform and for not providing the resources that are needed. The State is responsible for creating requirements that do nothing to educate the kids. But as we work away from the kids the blame is lessened, those closest have the most blame.

        • B4CE

          Let’s use you, the proverbial 98lb weakling for a slightly different take on this.
          You go to a gym, hire a personal trainer so you can be as strong as a normal man. The trainer throws every proven training technique at you. It costs a lot of extra money to get you more individual training time, and at the end of three years you are a 105 lb weakling. Who’s to blame? The gym owner? The trainer? You? Or your parent’s genetics they passed on to you?
          Did you fail? I mean you put on 7 lbs of hard gained muscle, or did you simply reach your max potential for that point in your life.
          Why is academic progress any different from physical training?

          • Pablo Jones

            Ok, so you are saying 33% of Lorain 3rd graders are mental weaklings because of inferior genetics? If they break out the demographic which they implied in the article you are essentially saying certain races are genetically sub-par.

            Why is it different than physical training? Because these are the kids in the regular class room that are not mentally challenged. They have the same physical and mental abilities to learn to a basic level. They may not have the ability to become the smartest in the country but they can reach the basic level.

            Besides if you read the article those kids have the option of attending a 1 month crash course to teach them to read at the basic level. So if a couple hours a week for 4 weeks can teach them to read, what was going on for the past 9 months in the school?

          • B4CE

            I don’t know the demographics of LCS, I never mentioned race as a factor. But I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s surprisingly even. Could be wrong, but from what I see around the City, could you enlighten me?
            If you read the article , when assessments are factored in 90% of the students passed. So obviously the teachers and their supervisors are doing their jobs. Out of the 47 students, 7 are not even taking the summer program. That’s 5 kids more kids that are not even trying than Columbia had not pass the test.
            My stance is one, there are more parents that don’t care in the City of Lorain. Roughly 33% more parents not involved. And two, there are going to be some kids that are simply not able to pass the test, regardless of racial make up.
            Teachers are educators, not miracle workers.

          • Brian_Reinhardt

            One word…

            CLEARVIEW…

          • Pablo Jones

            I’m not mentioning race as a factor either but in your example you brought up genetics. And based on the article they said a large number of the students are new to English, which would put them in a certain racial demographic. So if genetics plays a part you are saying certain racial demographic groups are genetically deficient.

            I love the fact that when the reporter is told assessments are factored in they pass the reporter doesn’t feel compelled to ask what those assessments are. To me it sounds like they didn’t pass, but they will move them along anyway and hope they can squeak by in the future, to hell if they actually learn anything.

            We are not asking these teachers to give them a PhD in reading. We are asking them to educate them to a basic level. They have nearly 9 months of school to do it and they failed. Regardless if there parents are involved or not or if the kid is slow the schools should be able to educate them. And like I said these kids aren’t stupid, they are apparently smart enough that they can achieve the basic level of reading by only working on it a few hours a week for a month. If it is that easy for them to pick it up what where the teachers doing for the 9 months of school?

            As for putting blame on the school look what the other schools are doing. They identify the kids that are struggling at a young age and they give them additional help. Even the ones that just barely passed are receiving additional summer help. In Lorain still promoted 2/3 of the kids that failed. Are they giving them any additional help? Nope they are passed the third grade and the school can keep moving them along. That is a decision the school made, can’t blame the parents for the school passing kids that can’t cut it.

          • B4CE

            Iv read the article over and over, no where did anyone say that after this magical summer reading program will assure that the students will pass the retest. It simply says they are eligible for the program and will retake the test after completion of the program.
            Alternative assessments, as stated in the article, (I’m wondering if you’d pass the reading test?) include the Iowa test(Elyria) and the north west academic achievement test(Lorain). When those tests are factored in, the achievement rate soars to roughly 90%. Now we take into the account the 5 parents that don’t care enough to enroll their child in a free summer reading program, and the numbers back up my claim that parents have a lot to do with this.
            Mr Tucker admits that 100% passing is unrealistic. Which backs up my claim that there are some genetics at play. The article humors you and picks the racially homogenous school district of Midview to make that point.
            I don’t know how many homes in Lorain you have been in over the last couple of years, but the fact that LCS is able to get as many kids to pass as they do is a small miracle !

          • Julie Wallace

            Those assessments are outlined in the story.

      • JoyceEarly

        I have a question for you. Do you believe that only in Lorain are the parents not participating in the process? How do all these other schools that pay a lot less than we do get it done? The only answer is going to be to make excuses as to why we can’t do it. We have poor people, disadvantaged, handicapped, non English speaking, the list goes on and on but these are excuses. It’s easy to blame the parents because that is a constant that can’t be changed. The district is disillusion and still tries to make this benchmark seem like they are doing great. We have to first admit we have a huge problem and stop sugar coating it. I have studied the test scores and compared them year to year. We need to get back to the basics. We need to change how we teach to the way kids learn. We miss the boat and our report cards and these scores are the proof Lorain is failing. We are one of the worst districts in the entire state and Amherst just a few miles away is an Academic Honors school. Clearview; literally on top of our city blow us away. Something stinks in Lorain as soon as you cross our borders. We have a totally toxic district and I don’t think anything will change because we keep putting the same low information thinkers in charge.

        • B4CE

          I’m willing to bet there are 30% more parents that don’t participate in the process.
          In your opinion, what’s the answer ?

        • oldruss

          It does seem odd that in the city of Lorain, with four school districts carved out of the city, that it is always the LCSD that trails behind, and badly too. What is it about the students and parents and teachers and administrators in the LCSD that sets them so far apart from the other three districts? Don’t try and blame this solely on poverty. Clearview has more than its fair share of families at or below the federal poverty line, and yet, Clearview scored 22 percentage points higher than did the LCSD. Does someone from the LCSD want to offer an explanation?

          • oldruss

            Saturday morning, and I’m still waiting to hear/read anything from a LCSD official explaining how the district can be so abysmal. Remember, the LCSD and the Clearview district share a commonality of socio-economic issues, yet, Clearview scored some 22 percentage points higher than LCSD.

    • Julie Wallace

      Please read the story. That chart only includes the OAA numbers. There are other tests which dramatically improve the number.

  • Greg White

    If you want your children educated. You have to bust your hump and live in a district where they can get the best education. It is as simple as that. And lack of parent participation does not help either. Go Shoreman!

  • stillsleepyeyes

    I would like to see how the 40,000 is going to promote this…………….