Monday, May 01, 2000

Report: Ohio must help kids pass test

Too many 4th-graders failed reading exam

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — The state must do more to help thousands of “hidden children” who show no sign of being able to pass the state's fourth-grade reading test, a report said.

        At least 20,000 9-year-olds failed the 1999 test by a substantial margin, with many unable to read several paragraphs and then write about what they read, according to the report, released last week.

        The report recommends reviewing the test, helping children prepare earlier, and giving kids until the fifth-grade to pass it.

        The Ohio chapter of the Children's Defense Fund released the report, “Ohio's Fourth Grade Reading Guarantee: Helping Our "Hidden Children' Succeed.”

        “The good thing about Ohio's law is it guarantees Ohio's children get the reading help they need,” said Mark Real, defense fund director. “What we're point ing out is a large percentage need a lot of help.”

        A 1997 law created the fourth- grade guarantee, which says students who don't pass the fourth-grade reading test cannot advance to fifth grade. The law takes effect in the 2001-2002 school year.

        Susan Tave Zelman, state schools superintendent, said the report mirrors recommendations the state education board approved in March.

        She is sending the report to every Ohio superintendent and will recommend more state investment in early grades.

        According to the report, 60 percent of Ohio fourth-graders — about 76,000 — passed the 1999 reading test.

        Of the 40 percent who failed, a majority probably could succeed with some extra help. But 16 percent of children who failed the test, or about 20,000, would need intensive help to pass.

        “No matter what test we have, if you go over to the Ohio General Assembly and ask, "Should a fourth-grader be able to read seven paragraphs of text and write two paragraphs about it,' most Ohioans would say that's something fourth-graders should be able to do,” Mr. Real said.

        The Children's Defense Fund of Ohio has recommended several ways to help children pass the state's fourth-grade reading test:

        „Giving students until the fifth grade to pass the test.

        „Evaluating whether the exam actually tests for fourth-grade knowledge and how much stress it causes students.

        „Ensuring that schools assess children's reading progress in first, second and third grades.

        „Tracking how many children are eligible for extra reading help and smaller classes and how many actually receive this help.

        „Expanding summer schools programs.

        „Offering extra reading help after school and on Saturdays.

        „Ensuring that Ohio colleges prepare new elementary teachers to teach reading effectively.

        „ Training preschool, Head Start and child-care teachers in early literacy teaching.

        „Evaluating whether the exam actually tests for fourth-grade knowledge and how much stress it causes students.


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