Monday, October 01, 2001

It's not as bad, but tests still stressful

Fourth-graders have more chances to pass

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Teachers and students can rest somewhat easier about the results of this week's fourth-grade state reading test.

        That's because students will have more chances to take the test than in past years and are less likely to be held back for not passing.

        The “fourth-grade guarantee” — an effort passed in 1997 to ensure all children are reading on grade level by the end of fourth grade — was altered in June by Senate Bill 1.

        But the stress for some hasn't diminished.

        “I personally feel like more options make (students) more nervous,” said Rob Dunn, fourth-grade teacher at Milford South Elementary.

        Six of his 21 students passed a pre-run test last year in third grade and don't have to retake it. Students who have to take the exam this week are confused about why others don't, he said.

        “I don't feel the pressure has changed,” he said. “It's big business. It's published and your district is ranked on it. You want to make sure your students pass.”

        Some students aren't fazed.

        “I study and I know all my reading stuff,” said Destiny Griffith, 9, a fourth-grader at the Academy of World Languages in Evanston.

        Her mother, Theodosia Griffith of Walnut Hills, says she has been trying to build up her daughter's confidence for the test.

        Under the old guarantee, fourth-grade students who didn't pass the reading portion of the state's proficiency tests were to be held back in fourth grade. The exceptions:

        • A reading teacher and the principal agreed to promote the child as academically ready.

        • A child could be exempt if a disability prohibited the child from taking the test.

        Under the new bill, students can be retained for not reaching the proficient level, can be moved up to fifth grade if the principal and reading teacher agree the child is academically ready or promoted to fifth grade with the promise the child receives intensive intervention.

        In the past, the exam was administered only in March.

        This year, the test is given this week, in March and again in July.

        Fourth-grade teacher Leslie Harper of Harlan-Butlerville Elementary in Harlan Township said she's stressed because the first test this year is in October.

        “That only gives me one month to prepare them,” she said.

        Other schools are plowing ahead with rigorous preparation.

        Cincinnati Public Schools for two years has had its own reading guarantee.

        CPS students take proficiency tests in second and third grade, called “off-grade proficiency tests.”

        They are not part of the fourth-, sixth-, ninth- and 12th-grade tests, which all have counted toward a district's academic ranking by the state.

        If students in CPS do not pass the second- or third-grade reading proficiency tests, they have to attend summer school. Students who don't pass the third-grade reading test will not be promoted to fourth grade. The test is administered several times during third grade.


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