Tallmadge -- Third-graders in the Tallmadge City School District performed better on an initial October reading assessment when compared to their peers throughout the state.
The Ohio Department of Education released district-specific statistics to the public Dec. 12 on the latest reading assessment. The ODE provided districts preliminary results earlier.
According to results, 68.3 percent of the students who were tested in Tallmadge scored in the "proficient or above" category. State education officials said 56 percent of third-graders throughout the state scored in the same category -- high enough to meet state requirements to advance a grade level next year.
Tallmadge Schools Superintendent Jeff Ferguson said he's pleased with his students' test scores, which remained about the same as the scores from last fall, as educators throughout the state noticed a general decline in the results.
The average score for this fall for students throughout the state was a 404 out of a possible 503, down slightly from a 407 last fall, he said. The average score for Tallmadge students was a 412, compared to a 410 last year, he said.
"We're obviously pleased that we did not see that decline here," Ferguson said.
"That tells you that more than half of our students are coming in already to third grade either reading at grade level or above, even through the third grade has just started," he added.
That shows the district's kindergarten, first grade and second grade teachers are doing a good job with teaching the students to read before they get to the third grade and take the initial assessment, he said.
In Tallmadge, 31.7 percent of the students scored into the "advanced" category that's comprised of the highest scores, which is double the number who fell into it last fall, Ferguson said. He said that's evidence the district is improving the reading skills of even the highest-achieving students.
The second-highest category called "accelerated" captured 17.7 percent of the students, while 18.9 percent made it into "proficient," the third-highest. The lowest scores that are considered not be proficient are grouped into the "basic" and "limited" categories, with 17.1 percent and 14.6 percent of Tallmadge students, respectively.
"Our teachers will work hard to take this data and look at where each student is and continue to try to move them on an individual basis and improve their reading," Ferguson said.
The goal is to try improve every student's reading skills, no matter which category they fall into, with the first assessment. Ferguson said last year, 92 percent of students made it into the "proficient or above" category for the spring assessment.
He said the process teachers use in Tallmadge includes getting to know their students even before they arrive on the first day of school.
"They put together some data profiles of their students, and they kind of have an idea where they are ... I think there's always room for improvement. For me, it's not as important where we start but where we finish," Ferguson said.
If parents haven't yet been notified of their child's test score, the ODE is expected to mail a detailed report with suggestions for how to improve reading skills sometime after Jan. 1, 2014.
Ferguson said students in school districts throughout the state have taken the third-grade reading assessments for some time, and each individual district used to have the freedom to decide how to improve reading skills. Now the tests are connected to legislation called the "Third Grade Reading Guarantee" that Gov. John Kasich signed into law last year and officially became effective at the start of the 2013-14 school year after it was trialed the year before. The law requires third-graders to be held back if they're not able to read at an appropriate level.
The new law also calls for reading assessments of students starting in kindergarten, with increased identification and parental notification of deficiencies and targeted teaching intervention for struggling students.
Students who scored in the two lowest categories are offered another assessment during the summer. Those who don't meet third grade reading proficiency are retained, with requirements for 90 minutes of reading instruction per school day.
Dix Communications Capital Bureau Chief Marc Kovac contributed to this report.
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