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Published: Wednesday, 6/16/2004

TPS: Focus on reading yields boost in test scores

BY SANDRA SVOBODA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

If students' reading skills improve, their proficiency scores improve, and Toledo Public Schools is one district of many where preliminary test results provide evidence of that, school officials said.

The Ohio Department of Education posted preliminary data on its Web site yesterday from the fourth, sixth, and ninth-grade tests conducted in March in districts throughout the state.

Between now and August, the state and the local districts will verify the test results, which will be used to calculate the districts' ratings on the local report cards released that month.

Toledo school administrators displayed their early results from the March tests for fourth and sixth graders yesterday,

which showed improvement in all five of the elementary school indicators - reading, writing, mathematics, citizenship, and science - and in four of the five areas for 10th graders taking the ninth-grade test. Only writing declined, falling from 95 percent passage to 93 percent, according to district and state records.

Chief academic officer Craig Cotner attributed the district's apparent gains to the its focus on reading, especially at the early grades. "As students' abilities to read improve, they'll do better in other tests that require a fairly high level of reading," he said.

The link between students' reading abilities and proficiency test success - in all five subjects - has not gone unnoticed by educators in other districts.

Kathy Zachel, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Bowling Green, said the format of the tests makes reading and writing more important in each subject. The tests require written answers, not just coloring in a circle to show a response, she said. "With these short response and extended response questions on these state tests, it requires that you really have a handle on what you read," Ms. Zachel said.

Gail Mirrow, superintendent in Ottawa Hills, said the test results there, traditionally among the state's best, are in part attributable to students' early exposure to reading at home. "Parents play a key part in readiness for children coming to school. It's really important for parents to read to their children and to read with their children, because they learn to read as you read to them," she said.

Contact Sandra Svoboda at:

svoboda@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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