Monday, April 22, 2002

Pupils have most trouble on 4th-grade reading test

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Schoolchildren in Ohio have more trouble passing the state's fourth-grade reading proficiency test than they do any of the state's other 14 annual proficiency tests, The Columbus Dispatch reported Sunday.

        In the 2000-01 school year, 56 percent of students taking the test passed, and only 15.6 percent of the school districts that receive state report cards — 95 of 608 — had enough fourth-graders pass the test to meet the state standard of 75 percent proficient.

        In contrast, 80 percent of students passed the fourth-grade writing test in the same year, and 83 percent of school districts met the state standard.

        The state requires fourth-, sixth- and ninth-graders to take the tests covering reading, writing, math, citizenship and science.

        The fourth-grade reading test is designed to show whether stu dents can understand a plot, analyze it and figure out what may happen next. They must decipher words from the context of familiar words and tell fact from opinion. The test also includes poetry, fiction and nonfiction.

        For the writing test, teachers read the questions out loud and they are based mostly on make-believe situations.

        “All we had to do was, they'd show us like a picture of a basket and we had to say what was in the basket,” said Lauren Johnson, now a fifth-grader in suburban Upper Arlington.

        She said the reading test, which she failed last year, was more difficult than she anticipated, while the writing test, which she passed, seemed easy.

        Teachers say fourth grade is when reading becomes difficult because, after concentrating mostly on fictional stories and using their imaginations in the first three grades, children are asked to use information to form conclusions.

        The reading test requires children to distance themselves from the text and write objectively, which is not always easy for them, said Pat Enciso, an associate professor of education at Ohio State University.

        Mitch Chester, the state's assistant superintendent for assessment, said teachers might need more help directing children to focus on the skills they need.

        “Some people blame the kids. ... Some blame the test. What I would argue is the major factor is instruction,” he said.

        Mr. Chester said the 56 percent of fourth-graders passing the reading test in the last school year was 10 points higher than the percentage passing in 1996, the first year the test was given.


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- Pupils have most trouble on 4th-grade reading test