About three-fourths of Toledo Public Schools third graders passed the state’s reading test this year, meaning they won’t have to repeat the third grade, according to test results released Tuesday.
This is the first year that the state’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee will force students who can’t score above a certain level to be kept in third grade another year. The results are not exact, as some students, such as some in special-education classes, are exempt from the test. And students who don’t pass the tests in the spring could be promoted to fourth grade if they show improvement over the summer.
The preliminary state data showed 76.4 percent of TPS third graders are set to advance to fourth grade without retaking the state test. Jim Gault, TPS chief academic officer, said the district chose to not yet exempt any students, because school leaders wanted to provide summer supports for all students who needed it. Those students may be exempted later.
“Summer slide is a real issue,” Mr. Gault said, referring to learning loss over the summer that affects low-income students disproportionately.
School leaders also want students who made the state cutoff for the guarantee but who still did not score proficient, to take the summer remediation classes. The district expects between 50 and 75 students likely will repeat third grade because of the state rule.
The Toledo district was near the middle of the pack for urban districts, and those districts performed on the whole worse than wealthier suburban districts. Statewide, about 88 percent of third graders passed the reading test. A growing body of research shows children in higher-income homes hear significantly more words at an early age than those from less wealthy households, contributing to disparate literacy skills.
While TPS students performed below suburban peers — because academic achievement correlates to socioeconomic status — the district had higher passage rates than Toledo charter schools. About 70 percent of students enrolled in Lucas County charter schools passed the reading test, according to state data. Excluding the Ohio Virtual Academy, an online school that enrolls students from across the state, about 65 percent of Toledo-area charter school students met the mark.
Local charter schools’ results varied wildly, with Toledo Preparatory and Fitness Academy posting the highest passage rate of 96 percent, and Kids Unlimited Academy the lowest, with 18 percent. However, the student sample size for charter schools is small; only 22 students took the test at Kids Unlimited.
Across Lucas, Fulton, and Wood counties, only the Ottawa Hills district had a 100 percent passage rate.
Ottawa Hills Superintendent Kevin Miller pointed not only to strong work by his staff but also a parental commitment to read to children for the high test scores. Despite the district’s good results, Mr. Miller said he believes state tests should be diagnostic to assess student performance and not punitive.
“I’m not sure that research would support holding a student back in third grade based on one reading test,” Mr. Miller said.
Mr. Gault had similar thoughts. While he believes that providing support for struggling third graders is beneficial, holding them back a year is detrimental. Research has found that the negative psychological impact of retaining young students outweighs the benefits.
Ohio third-grade students take reading tests twice — in the spring, and in the fall, when they’ve just started third grade. Data provided to TPS in the fall by the state education department showed about 50 percent of TPS students did not meet the benchmark for promotion to fourth grade, according to the district, meaning about 25 percent of TPS students improved their scores enough to pass the test during the school year.