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Reading scores drop below state average

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Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. third-grade students scored below the state average on the IREAD-3 for the first time since the state-mandated test was implemented in 2012, preliminary results show.

This year, 84.6 percent of Columbus third-graders passed the reading comprehension and vocabulary assessment, compared with 85.58 percent statewide.

But there is good news in the score, BCSC Director of Elementary Education Teresa Heiny said. More than 70 students out of about 800 who took the test achieved a perfect score.

“Are we where we want to be? No, but we’ll get there,” Heiny said.

There’s also good news from Hope Elementary, which was one student and one question away from all students passing IREAD-3.

Superintendent Kathy Griffey said Hope received the 9th-highest score result in the state, and it’s due to teacher efforts.

Both districts will have the opportunity to retest students who failed and apply good-cause exemptions, which remove students who have been retained twice, some students with special needs and some English language learners from the results.

That will likely pull up the scores at schools including Taylorsville Elementary, where 30 students did not pass the exam but 27 third-graders are English language learners, according to data from the state Department of Education.

“That may be what we’re seeing there,” Heiny said. “You’ve got children who may have just come into the U.S. and speak another language and they sit down and take this test. For some, it’s just not appropriate. They’re working at their highest potential.”

Hope Principal Lisa Smith said she is confident the one student will pass when retested this summer. The school eventually passed all third-graders last year, too.

She said teachers have redirected instruction in the classroom knowing the test focuses heavily on nonfiction materials and literary text. They have also implemented interventions that address weaknesses but also push students to read above grade level.

“Our wonderful staff is the key to all of this,” she said. “They work hard to provide our students with the skills they need to be successful.”

Because schools are currently administering ISTEP+, Heiny said all BCSC administrators have not had a chance to tally the number of students who may be eligible for a good-cause exemption or the number likely to pass when retested. But she said she knows the district’s score will improve.

Across the district, 10.9 percent of third-graders are English language learners and 13.5 percent have special needs. Depending on those students’ individual learning plans and case committees, many will be granted

good-cause exemptions, Heiny said.

Last year, the district passed 88.5 percent of students in the preliminary results, and the finalized score increased by 2.5 percentage points to 91 percent.

All but two BCSC schools passed a lower percentage of students when compared to last year’s preliminary results. The exceptions were Mt. Healthy Elementary, which improved the pass rate to 97.5 percent from an 86.8 percent preliminary grade; and Schmitt Elementary, which improved to 85.3 percent from a preliminary 84.8 percent in 2013.

But Heiny said that doesn’t mean much.

“It’s unfair to compare one third-grade group to another third-grade group,” she said.

Testing Coordinator Samantha Harpring said schools can compare year-to-year ISTEP+ results because individual students can be tracked within the data.

“We are truly talking about a different group here,” she said. “IREAD is just a snapshot of one hour, one day, one group.”

The scores came as no surprise to the teachers, Harpring said, as they have been tracking reading progress all year.

The students all have uninterrupted 90-minute reading blocks, and most schools use an additional 30 to 45 minutes to look at the results and monitor progress, Heiny said. Teachers can then identify the students who need to work on certain skills or standards.

“We meet our kids where they are, and we develop an instructional plan,” Heiny said.

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