A major policy change taking effect in the 2013-2014 school year involves the promotion of third-grade students based on reading scores. The Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA) states that a third-grade student cannot be promoted to the fourth grade if he or she scores Unsatisfactory on the reading portion of the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test (OCCT). Any change this significant is bound to raise a number of questions — and possible concerns — for parents. Is my child at risk of being retained? Are there exemptions to the law? What can I do to help my child read at grade level?
We have answers.
Studies consistently show that children who cannot read end up struggling in all other subjects. One such survey found that students who can’t read by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.
RSA significantly reduces the possible need for remediation in middle and high school and lowers the risk of a student dropping out of school because he or she is unable to read.
Many schools assess pre-kindergarten students in literacy. RSA requires benchmark assessments in kindergarten through third grade and mandates that schools identify children who need intensive intervention in reading and notify their parents in writing.
Moreover, the school must develop for that student an individualized program of reading instruction that includes:
The school is strongly encouraged to utilize ongoing communications to parents pertinent to their child’s progress. If you have a concern about your child’s reading ability, please contact your child’s teacher.
No, there are other options. A portfolio of a student’s work demonstrating grade-level reading can be submitted by a teacher, ensuring that the retention decision does not come down to a single day of testing. The student also will have the opportunity to take an alternative standardized assessment test at a later date, as long as he or she first takes the OCCT. Children also may successfully complete a summer reading academy prior to utilizing the portfolio or alternative test exemptions.
RSA provides six “good cause” exemptions for some students who score Unsatisfactory on the reading test:
Students who demonstrate through a teacher- developed portfolio that they can read on grade level. The student portfolio shall include evidence demonstrating the student’s mastery of the Oklahoma state standards in reading equal to grade-level performance on the reading portion of the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test (OCCT).
Students with disabilities who take the OCCT and have an IEP that states they have received intense remediation in reading for more than two years but still demonstrate a deficiency in reading and were previously retained one year or were in a transitional grade during kindergarten, first-, second- or third-grade.
Students who have received intensive remediation in reading for two or more years but still demonstrate a deficiency in reading and who already have been retained in kindergarten, first-grade, second-grade or third-grade for a total of two years. Transitional grades count.
Talk to your child’s teacher if you believe he or she may be eligible for a good-cause exemption.
For an exemption to be approved:
Only children scoring Unsatisfactory (about a first-grade level or below) on the reading portion of the third-grade OCCT are at risk of being retained.
Children who score Limited Knowledge (typically a second-grade reading level), Proficient or Advanced do not have to be retained.
The school will continue remediation based on your child’s academic progress plan.
It is very important to realize that retention is absolutely a last resort, but it can be a very effective one. Florida, one of 15 U.S. states to have a third-grade reading law, saw a significant drop in illiteracy after it ended social promotion. Retention allows children to get the intensive help they need.
The Oklahoma State Department of Education (SDE) is assisting school districts as they work to ensure all students are able to meet third-grade reading requirements. These efforts include:
58 literacy coaches are available to classroom teachers in all Oklahoma school districts to assist with reading instructional strategies.
Literacy coaches have held 35 regional workshops statewide, attended by large groups of teachers learning reading strategies.
Workshops have been presented at school site parent nights by the literacy coaches. More than 15,000 backpacks containing reading resources have been distributed to participants.
Literacy coaches and SDE “SWAT Team” members, who offer data analysis and individualized problem-solving, are visiting each low-performing school site in the state to discuss the importance of great reading instruction and remediation in Pre-K through third grade.
These grant funds provide professional development and products to Oklahoma school districts targeting priority schools and utilizing the following reading instruction materials: