Third Grade Reading Scores – Pick a Headline
Today is the day that many third graders, their parents, and their schools have been anticipating. Schools now have online access to student scores on this year’s third grade reading (featuring language arts) test. The data portal seems to have worked for administrators retrieving results, and statewide, scores are up from last year.
For fun, let’s play a matching game. In the box below, on the left are three headlines. On the right are the sources of each. Try to guess which came from where.
|Slight improvement seen in state third-grade reading test scores||Oklahoma State Department of Education|
|More than 7,000 Oklahoma third-graders failed reading test, face retention||Tulsa World|
|At least 85% of state’s third-graders pass to next grade under RSA||The Oklahoman|
This is the fun thing about data. All of these things are true. Let’s see how each source framed today’s results.
From the OSDE:
From the Tulsa World:
From the Oklahoman:
How did you do? If you thought that the OSDE would have the most positive approach and that the Oklahoman the most negative, you’d have been right. Also, keep in mind that the writers don’t typically write their own headlines.
Here’s the rest of Superintendent Hofmeister’s press release:
At least 85 percent of Oklahoma third-graders pass to next grade under Reading Sufficiency Act
OKLAHOMA CITY (May 15, 2015) — Preliminary results from this school year’s third-grade Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test (OCCT) reading test indicate that at least 85 percent will be promoted to the next grade.
Out of more than 50,000 test-takers, 67 percent statewide scored “Proficient,” while 14.6 percent scored “Unsatisfactory.”
Preliminary results are as follows:
Under the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA), third-grade students who score “Unsatisfactory” on the assessment and fail to meet an exemption are subject to retention for intensive remediation in reading. Students who score “Limited Knowledge” are not held back, but must receive reading remediation in fourth grade.
However, students have multiple opportunities to demonstrate mastery in the area of reading.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said renewed focus on reading as a result of RSA has shown signs of improvement among Oklahoma’s third-graders.
“Literacy is critical for success in academics and throughout life, and the RSA plays a valuable role in ensuring that skill,” she said.
“While these numbers are preliminary and will change slightly, it appears the percentage of ‘Unsatisfactory’ has decreased. And more students evidently scored ‘Limited Knowledge,’ showing improvement between ‘Unsatisfactory’ and ‘Limited Knowledge.’
“But it is important to remember, too, that the current third-grade OCCT test given to satisfy federal test requirements was not designed to measure reading level the way it is being used for RSA. Instead, a valid reading test should include five essential elements: fluency, phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary and reading comprehension.
“For this reason it is very important that students who did not pass the OCCT reading test now be assessed by an RSA committee. These panels will examine other specific reading evidence to determine the need for retention or targeted intervention for next year. As these committees are essential to ensuring success, I urge the Legislature to keep their voices in the RSA process.”
The RSA committees are scheduled to dissolve at the end of the current school year unless lawmakers pass legislation to extend their existence. Additionally, lawmakers are considering a measure that would include “Limited Knowledge” students under the provisions of RSA. This year, for example, that would mean an additional 7,900 students evaluated for possible retention.
Over the next few weeks, school districts are required to contact parents and legal custodians of students who scored “Unsatisfactory” and determine the most effective course of action for these children.
Approximately two-thirds of students who scored “Unsatisfactory” are English Language Learners, on an Individualized Education Program (IEP), or both. That same designation also applies to roughly 39 percent of test-takers who scored “Limited Knowledge.”
Hofmeister’s words make me want to reiterate several important points that I’ve made at other times:
- Scores have improved (slightly, as the World indicates) from last year.
- This test is a poor measurement of reading ability.
- The RSA promotion committees have worked well around the state.
- Doubling the number of students in the promotion/retention committees dilutes the work needed for our most struggling students.
- Without the RSA committees, we will be retaining special education students and those just learning to speak English at highly disproportionate levels.
This is why we all need to be aware of ongoing legislative discussions. Senate bill 630 is out of conference committee. The Legislature’s bill tracking site shows the most recent version with a date of April 22. Here are the key changes:
- Keep the RSA Committees for promotion through the 2019-2020 school year (p. 4).
- Add an RSA Committee for students not meeting benchmarks on screening instruments in first and second grade (p. 5).
- Add students scoring Limited Knowledge into the retention discussion (p. 11).
The 2015 legislative session is almost over. Let your representative and senator know what you think about these changes.