The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, December 02, 2015 4:41 pm

3rd-grade reading ability slips

Sherry Slater The Journal Gazette

Scores were slightly lower across the board this year for a statewide test that measures third-graders’ reading ability, data released Friday show.

All four Allen County public school districts saw their passing rates decline, mirroring a dip in the statewide average of 84.2 percent from 85.6 percent last year.

IREAD-3, or the Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination assessment, measures a child’s reading proficiency, which is considered a key to success in higher grades. It’s often said that children learn to read through third grade and read to learn after that.

Krista Stockman, spokeswoman for Fort Wayne Community Schools, said the district’s main goal is getting help for students who don’t pass the test.

Although other types of assessments are used to measure teacher and school effectiveness, this is about individual students. FWCS enrolled 2,328 third-graders last fall.

"What really matters is, did this third-grader pass? Did this third-grader pass?" Stockman said. "If I’m a parent, I’m wondering, did my third-grader pass? And if he didn’t, what can I do to help him?"

FWCS teachers and administrators review each school’s performance and look for explanations when passing rates noticeably increase or decrease, Stockman said. Principals share the information with their peers, allowing struggling schools to adopt some of the successful schools’ practices.

Individual local elementary schools that saw significant changes in passing rates this year compared with last include:

• South Wayne, down 19.1 percentage points to 43.4

• Abbett, down 18.0 percentage points to 51.1

• Maplewood, up 14.1 percentage points to 70.7

Some private schools posted larger one-year changes, but because their enrollments are typically much lower, the performance of just a few children can skew the passing rates.

A few schools achieved 100 percent passing rates on the first try, but most of those were private schools. The only regional public elementary schools that received a perfect score were both in DeKalb County: Country Meadow and Riverdale.

The designated window for this year’s test was March 16 to 18. The multiple-choice exam takes 98 minutes.

Children who failed the test will get a chance to retake it before the end of the school year. Stockman didn’t know the date but expects it will be in June.

Children who fail a second time sometimes get a waiver if they meet certain criteria, such as being special education students. Others are promoted to fourth grade but continue to take third-grade reading lessons. And a small proportion repeat the entire third grade, she said.

Typically, Stockman said, fewer than 10 children in each FWCS school fail the second test or secure a waiver.

Some know the material but are uncomfortable with the computer testing setup or become distracted when so many students take the test at the same time, Stockman said.

"It’s a high-stakes test for 8- and 9-year-olds," she said, "and that can be a tough environment."

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