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December 4, 2023

Nonprofit aiding Tulsa Public Schools with new district reading benchmarks

Originally posted on News on 6

screenshot from video: nonprofit aiding tulsa public schools with new district reading benchmarks

Reading is the major concern of the Oklahoma State Department of Education as they keep a close eye on progress at Tulsa Public Schools.

The state has new benchmarks for the district.

Reading Partners is a nonprofit that is trying to help. Leaders said they work with struggling students to get them up to speed on reading and the changes the state is asking for are possible.

“Teach kids to read this year; let’s see the outcomes reflect that,” said Walters.

State Superintendent Ryan Walters made the message clear at this week’s state board of education meeting: students in Tulsa need help with reading, and changes need to start now.

“We are committed to partnering with TPS to bring those numbers up, and the benchmark that’s been set is very ambitious,” said Olivia Martin.

Walters said 41% of TPS students from K-8th grade are reading at a basic level. The state average is 65%.

He wants to see that number either go up to at least 50% or he wants to see an increase of 5% each school year overall.

“We want kids to be proficient and advanced, but what basic does is it really allows us to target supports by getting at least half the students to that level,” Walters said.

The nonprofit Reading Partners helps struggling students at TPS and Union with the help of volunteers giving an hour a week of one-on-one reading help.

Executive director Olivia Martin said numbers are low thanks to issues like demographics, neighborhoods and made much worse by COVID.

“From kindergarten to 3rd grade, so much you’re learning as a student is how to read and what that looks like,” Martin said.

Martin said students who aren’t reaching reading benchmarks by 3rd grade run the risk of struggling much more in later grades, and she believes reaching these goals is possible with parents, teachers, and the community all pitching in.

The state will continue to require monthly check-ins from TPS at its board meetings.

Interim superintendent Ebony Johnson said the district is making sweeping changes and already seeing growth.

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