Friday, June 01, 2001

Ohio tests point to gap in reading

But science and math scores improve

By Jennifer Mrozowski and Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        In Greater Cincinnati, the three R's this summer and next school year will stand for Reading, Reading and more Reading.

        Proficiency test scores released Thursday by the Ohio Department of Education show the highest scores ever for the state's fourth- and sixth-graders on the science and math tests. But reading test results were mixed, with scores improving in sixth grade and declining slightly in fourth grade.

[photo] At Jane Hoop Elementary in Mount Healthy, Gail Karle guides her fourth-graders in identifying countries on a map. Standing at upper right is aide Pam Hoffman.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
        School districts say reading improvement will be a focus for the upcoming school year.

        Mirroring the statewide trend, West Clermont Local School District made significant gains in fourth-grade math and science scores, but dropped 5 percentage points in reading, to 61 percent passing.

        Mary Ellen Steele-Pierce, assistant superintendent and test coordinator for the district, said she is not satisfied.

        “Though we continue to make gains statistically, this is about kids, not numbers. Until every child is reading at or above grade level, we can't be satisfied.”

        The district will look at its teaching practices, use of instructional time and what “best practice” schools do differently, she said.

        More literacy training for K-2 teachers, parent involvement and pressing the students to do more with their knowledge all factored into improved scores, said Steve Fox, principal at Brantner Elementary in Mount Carmel.

Proficiency scores for Ohio area schools
        Cincinnati Public Schools improved reading scores — from 29 percent to 33 percent passing in sixth grade and from 30 percent to 31 percent in fourth grade — but still ranks well below the state average of 58 percent and 57 percent, respectively.

        The district is labeled in “academic emergency,” the lowest category of the state education department's four rankings based on proficiency test scores, graduation rates and attendance.

        Kathleen Ware, associate superintendent for CPS, said she was pleased with the across-the-board gains.

        “There's no quick fix,” she said. “What we want to see is this kind of steady growth year after year. Volatility is not what we're after.”

        The district will continue its “third-grade reading guarantee” program started last year, in which second- and third-graders who don't reach a certain score in reading on the district's off-grade proficiency tests must attend summer school.

        This year, 2,997 students are required to attend summer school, which runs June 11-July 20. Last year, 42 percent of second-graders and 20 percent of third-graders failed the test. Last year, 2,466 students attended the summer school.

        The district will also continue to have 20-25 teachers serve as literacy coaches next school year. They will model effective literacy strategies for other teachers in their classrooms, Ms. Ware said.

        In Mount Healthy City Schools — another district classified in academic emergency — math and science scores jumped in both fourth and sixth grades.

        But fourth-grade reading scores improved just 2 percentage points, with 45 percent passing the test this year. Sixth-grade reading test scores remained stagnant, with 46 percent passing this year.

        “We've shown a pattern of improvement, but we still have a way to go,” Superintendent David Horine said.

        Reading initiatives will include weekly to biweekly test data analysis, more reading software for computers and an expanded summer school program for grades kindergarten through second.

        Like many other school districts, St. Bernard-Elmwood Place City Schools had mixed results. Elmwood Place Elementary posted the highest scores ever in three categories on the sixth-grade test.

        Districtwide, sixth-grade reading scores tumbled by 11 percentage points compared with last year. The largest gain was in fourth-grade math scores, which jumped by 22 percentage points.

        “We are pleased that our science and math scores are improving,” said Cindy Cone, curriculum coordinator. “The teachers and students have been working very hard, but we're always looking to see what we need to do to continue to improve.

        “As we're improving in math and science, we want to make sure we don't drop in the other areas,” she said.



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