By Dani Palmer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
It’s a high-stakes test that gives students just two chances before third-grade retainment, and educators are working to ensure it’s done right the first time.
It’s IREAD-3 week for third-grade elementary students in public schools and private schools with school choice scholarships, or vouchers, and the kids who don’t pass now go on to summer school for that second chance.
If they pass in the summer, they move on to fourth grade. If they fail, they’ll be retained.
“We’ve covered everything,” Tenth Street Elementary Principal Yvonne Ritchey said. “They know it (the material). Now they just need to show they know it.”
Anderson Community Schools teachers have utilized the district-wide eight-step process — reviewing the standards, assessing the children every three weeks and then grouping them according to ability — along with individual tutors and reading specialists to help the students succeed.
The purpose of IREAD-3 is “to measure foundational reading standards through grade three,” according to the Indiana Department of Education. It was developed in accordance with Public Law 109 that requires third-graders to read proficiently before heading to the fourth grade.
While county schools did well last year, Tenth Street is aiming to increase its 71 percent pass rate from 2012.
There were a great number of new staff who knew they had a challenge to face, Ritchey said, but they’ve worked “as hard as any staff I’ve seen.”
Like Tenth Street, Anderson Preparatory Academy’s elementary is hoping to increase scores — from a 69 percent pass rate last year to, realistically, the mid to high 70 percentile range this year, chief academic officer John Hayden said.
Last year was the elementary’s launch, and Hayden said they’re interested to see how kids who’ve been with the school for a year do.
APA uses individualized learning plans for every child and an online system to assess their skills. When it came to IREAD specifically, Hayden said they’d worked to identify strengths and weaknesses in the first and second grade.
In schools that had high success last year, teachers took much the same approach again this year.
At Lapel Elementary, 93 percent of students passed IREAD in 2012. Principal Woody Fields said they continued to hit state standards and “what students should know.”
“We hope they’re prepared well enough to do as well as they did last year, if not better,” he said.
Liberty Christian Interim Superintendent Lisa Huff said students are using Accelerated Reader: software used for monitoring the reading progress. The kids read at their specific level and set goals to improve.
The school saw a 100 percent pass rate last year, but has more students to work with this year; from 39 to 52.
Huff added they’ve had so much success with the Accelerated program that Liberty has added an Accelerated Math program to help improve ISTEP scores.
Speaking of ISTEP, the third-graders have more on their standardized test plates than any of the other kids: they’re taking two important tests. IREAD is exclusive to them and ISTEP begins in third grade.
At APA, the students also have the Northwest Evaluation Association assessment, taken as part of an obligation to its sponsor, Ball State University, Hayden said.
So what did the schools do to keep the stress down?
They threw pep sessions, celebrated successes and don’t give out any homework during test week.
As long as IREAD is being held to the level of accountability it is, Fields said, it’s very important to educators and parents to help kids be successful.
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