Tulsa third graders fail in reading test

Preliminary results from this school year’s third-grade Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test (OCCT) reading test show that almost one third of Tulsa Public School students can’t read well enough to match fourth grade levels.

In Tulsa, 3,660 third-grade students were tested this year and 1,114 students – about 30 percent – scored “unsatisfactory.” Last year, preliminary results for the 2013-14 school year showed 1,120 students at risk of being held back in the third grade (out of 3,261 students), which was 35 percent “unsatisfactory.”

According to the preliminary results, nearly 1,723 students — or 47.1 percent of those tested — received a “proficient” score. Only 1 percent — or 38 students — received an “advanced” score. In addition to the students scoring “unsatisfactory,” 785 students (21.4 percent) received a score of “limited knowledge.”

Announced state results show that 30 percent of the students tested – 15,292 of 50,137 – couldn’t read at a passing level. Only 1,270 (2.5 percent) read at an “advanced” level according to the test while about two-thirds (33,575 – 67 percent) scored in the “proficient” category.

Thirty percent of the students statewide graded at “unsatisfactory” (7,311 – 14.8 percent) or “limited knowledge” (7,981 – 16 percent) levels. Unsatisfactory students won’t be promoted to the fourth grade while limited knowledge student will be forced into remediation.

The only good news is that there is a 5 percent improvement from the failure rate of last year in Tulsa Public Schools when 606 third-grade students failed the test and were not promoted into the fourth grade.

Under Oklahoma’s Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA), third-grade students who fail and don’t qualify for an exemption are subject to “intensive remediation in reading.” Students who score “limited knowledge” are not held back, but must receive reading remediation in fourth grade.

According to the RSA law, “any student who demonstrates proficiency on a screening instrument which meets the acquisition of reading skills criteria shall not be subject to the retention guidelines.”

Students can be evaluated with one of seven good-cause exemptions. Probationary reading teams consisting of parents and teachers can meet to determine retention or promotion for students who scored unsatisfactory.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, who has been in office less than six months, said renewed focus on reading 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.

Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard was excited about the improvement. Unlike last year, Ballard didn’t blame the state superintendent (Janet Barresi) for the failure in Tulsa.