Campus keeps close watch on students' reading ability

by BOb Gaetjens | Editor Published:

The results from October's third-grade reading tests were not surprising, said Campus Elementary School Principal Kristen Cottrell.

The reason for that is, students are tested regularly to evaluate their reading ability.

Several times each year, all students take STAR tests, which test the same areas of reading skill that the Ohio Achievement Assessments check, she said.

Cottrell said 28 third graders tested below third-grade reading level in the October testing.

"Another 18 are above the grade three reading benchmark but are below proficient," she said. "I think we're in pretty good shape. This data wasn't too surprising compared to what we've seen in our progress monitoring."

Cottrell said the third-grade reading guarantee is tied to a formula based on individual students' scores on testing that evaluates their reading process, ability to read fictional literature, ability to read nonfiction literature and understanding of vocabulary. The top scores in the district are usually in the high 400s, she said, and the lowest score that qualifies a student as "proficient" for the district's report cards is 400. By the end of the year, students need to score at least 392 on the reading test to proceed to fourth-grade.

By the April OAAs, Cottrell said students should perform better on the test since that is the time grade level reading is adjusted for.

"All the kids below 400 are already receiving help," she said, explaining those who need it get small group and individual tutoring from the district's Title I tutors and others.

Those who are receiving extra help on reading are tested every three weeks with the STAR test which mimics the state's OAA testing. All students take the test in the fall, winter and spring shortly before state testing, she added.

"It's a computer-based adaptive program, so as students are answering questions, it gives us a standard score, a percentile and a grade-level equivalent for every child," said Cottrell.

She said the STAR program asks harder and harder questions until a student can't answer any more, then asks easier ones, until it pinpoints a student's reading level.

From there, students who need them are given individual Reading Improvement and Monitoring Plans that address their specific needs, she said.

Cottrell said it's important to identify children having trouble reading as early as possible because of the way they learn at different ages. What a tutor can accomplish with a kindergarten student in 30 minutes would take the same tutor about two hours with a fourth-grader, she said.

She said the school would be able to identify students coming in to third grade with trouble reading, thanks to testing and intervention at the second grade level.

Parents can help

Cottrell said parents have some control over their children's achievement level.

"You don't have to teach them," she said. "Anything you do that supports their reading -- reading a book with students -- can help."

Cottrell said reading to children and having them read helps, but to really make sure children understand literature, parents should ask questions about it. Those can be plot-based questions about what happened, questions about characters, even figuring out challenging words by looking up their roots.

"Find ways to make it fun, to read with your child and talk about what you're reading with your student," she said.

It's also important to try to pick books that are at the children's reading level and are on topics of interest to children, said Cottrell.

Even reading signs and other text around the community can help younger readers, she added.

Email: bgaetjens@recordpub.com

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