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June 9, 2016

Tulsa's third-grade reading test results climb significantly for second year in a row

Originally published by Tulsa World

By: Andrea Eger

Tulsa Public Schools now has 74 percent of its third-graders qualifying for promotion to fourth grade based on preliminary results from the state reading test.

That is 4 percentage points better than 2015 and 9 points better than 2014.

Of the district’s 3,625 third-graders, 942 did not meet the state’s minimum criteria for reading on the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test.

By comparison, 88 percent of the state’s 54,000 third-graders met the criteria and 12 percent did not, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Education. That represents a slight improvement, up from 85.4 percent qualifying for automatic fourth-grade promotion in 2015.

Jana Burk, interim chief accountability officer at TPS, said the district’s new results are particularly encouraging because the state increased its criteria for qualifying for automatic fourth-grade promotion on the third-grade reading test.

In previous years, students receiving the lowest of four performance ratings on the state reading test were at risk of being held back or “retained in third grade.” This year, the state’s new, minimum requirements for third-graders are performance in the critical literacy and vocabulary portions of the reading test.

“In the past, you could be retained if you scored unsatisfactory, but now the criteria for promotion is performance in the two most difficult portions of the test, so it’s somewhat more rigorous,” Burk said.

The preliminary state test results do not yet take into account “good cause” exemptions, meaning the number of students to be retained will fall even further by the Nov. 1 deadline for promotions.

According to Oklahoma’s Reading Sufficiency Act, students scoring “unsatisfactory” are subject to being held back in third grade if they don’t meet requirements for an exemption.

“Good cause” exemptions are available to students who can demonstrate sufficient reading skills on another state-approved reading test or screener and for certain English-language learners and disabled students.

For example, Erin Lester, director of educational indicators at TPS, said 175 more third-graders in the district can also be promoted based on qualifying results on a reading screener called the Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP. By comparison, only 130 Tulsa third-graders qualified for promotion using that route in 2015.

“The main purpose of those results is to help teachers target their instruction better, including how to group students in small groups or centers,” Lester said. “This is also the first year we told schools they could shift second-grade students up to the third-grade screener, when appropriate, so they could qualify for promotion before they even get to third grade — just to take this issue off the table.”

State law has been amended to also allow a team of parents and teachers to determine whether to retain or promote a student who scored “unsatisfactory” on a probationary basis.

Last year, 441 Tulsa Public Schools third-graders were not promoted to the fourth grade, a decrease from 606 the previous year.

Trends in third grade reading test results

Percentage of students qualifying for automatic promotion to fourth grade according to results of third grade Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test in reading

 2013-14   2014-15   2015-16  
 State  83.8%  85.4% 88%
 Tulsa Public Schools  65%  70%   74%

Source: Oklahoma State Department of Education and Tulsa Public Schools

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