80% Of Oklahoma Third Graders Pass New Reading Test

The Oklahoma Department of Education has announced that 80% of the state’s third-graders passed their Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA) test that allows them to be passed onto fourth grade, according to a report by KJRH.

The test bloomed from the passing of the RSA, which stated that in order to advance to fourth grade, students must prove they can read on a third-grave level. There are special exemptions, however the passage rate was a welcome boon to educators, who had faced criticism about the possible repercussions of a mass failure.

State Superintendent Janet Barresi said:

“Doomsday predictions from some critics of RSA had suggested that anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of our third-graders would score Unsatisfactory,” said Barresi.  “But Oklahoma teachers and schoolchildren were, and are, up for the challenge.”

Not all of the numbers were as glowing, however. In Tulsa, 32.7% of students were found to be “unsatisfactory”.  These students will have two more opportunities to to demonstrate their basic reading skills using alternate tests and, for some, summer reading academies.  If teachers disagree with the score of an individual student, they may use a portfolio to indicate that the student is reading at grade level. The act also sets up special exemptions for students who are disabled, English Language Learners,  and for students who have been retained for two years.  Naturally, with these exceptions, the number of children who will be retained will lessen.

In another report, from KFOR-TV, the results are looked at from a different perspective.  They believe that the state’s largest districts are “facing serious problems“.

  • 28.9%of Oklahoma City’s third graders scored “unsatisfactory”
  • 30% of Oklahoma City third graders are reading below grade-level
  • Those students who scored in the “limited knowledge” category are reading below grade-level, but only one grade below, and will be passed to fourth grade

Kelli Chastain, a teacher with Putnam City Schools, says that one test given on one day may not be the best way to ascertain a child’s reading level.

Nate Robson, writing for the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise, is a member of Oklahoma Watch, which describes itself as “a non-profit, non-partisan organization that produces in-depth and investigative content on a variety of public-policy issues in the state.” Robson says that hopes of third graders improving in their reading skills have been dashed.  The release of scores from the state reading test in Oklahoma showed that 7,970 students failed the test.

The rate of failing students rose from 11.4% for last year’s school year to 15.7% scoring “unsatisfactory”.  Reasons for this increase, according to officials, could be that more special education students took the test this year; the two largest districts in the state, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, have high rates of low-income families; there is insufficient funding for reading programs and tutoring;  and that the RSA needs to be improved.

There is a bill in place, HB 2626, which would institute a panel of teachers, parents, and reading specialists in each school or district, to determine whether third graders should be retained or advanced to fourth grade.

Many Oklahoma educators believe that retention is not helpful to students and can result in thwarting motivation and social adjustment.

The opposing opinion is that the state cannot continue to “socially promote” students who are not reading at grade-level.  They add that students sometimes need an “extra step” to improve their reading skills, and, thereby, allow them to keep up with their peers in later grades.