School guarantee

CRIDERSVILLE — A state mandate passed this summer requires all third-grade students in 2014 to have passed a state reading and comprehensive test before they can advance to the fourth grade in that subject area.

Wapakoneta Elementary School Assistant Principal Carrie Knoch along with Wapakoneta Elementary School Principal Mark Selvaggio and Cridersville Elementary School Principal Dave Tester explained the state’s new third grade reading guarantee to Wapakoneta City School Board of Education members. The third grade reading guarantee affects students entering the third grade for the 2013-14 school year.

“Basically the premise of the third grade guarantee is any child that falls below the standard, which is actually below passing on the third grade test, will be held in the third grade and will not be allowed to pass,” Knoch said during Tuesday’s school board meeting. “Now there are a lot of little contingencies to that. Some of you may remember the fourth grade guarantee, this is very similar to that, but really this is the fourth grade guarantee with a little more teeth.”

One of the new requirements is all children are to be tested from kindergarten through third grade to measure their grasp of reading and comprehension. Knoch explained by state law that parents of every child who is not on track must receive a letter stating this and that the school will offer intensive reading remediation to get them on track.

The goal is to get them on track so the child can pass the test, but the letter also explains if they cannot get them on track that they are in danger of failing the test. The school has 60 days to develop an intervention program for the student.

Knoch, Selvaggio and Tester worried parents of younger students, especially kindergartners and first-graders, would panic if they received such a letter so they held meetings to inform parents of the new mandate. One was held Oct. 9 at Cridersville Elementary School and a second held Oct. 11 at Wapakoneta Elementary School.

This year, 90 letters went out to parents, Knoch said. If the requirements were in effect this year, three students would not have been advanced to the fourth grade.

Selvaggio said they will be sending letters to all parents of students in kindergarten through the third grade in the near future explaining the program.

The diagnostic assessment test for tracking students reading and comprehensive under the new state mandate is a test already used by the school district to determine if a student needed assistance.

“We also are going to continue the intervention plan that we have had in place at both buildings for some time now which our staff refers to as guided reading,” Knoch told board members. “We break down into small groups, we work on what they really need to work on and we watch their progress. We will continue to monitor progress and send their parents information on how their child is doing.”

Knoch shared that 90 percent of the rules in the new mandate, required under Senate Bill 316, already are in place at Wapakoneta City Schools, “so it will not be a huge change for us.”

But two problems do exist on the horizon.

If the student proves proficient in reading and comprehension during the middle of the school year, the school is required to move them to the next level and catch them up with the other students.

“When you are placed in a group, you are not there forever,” Superintendent Keith Horner said. “You have the ability to go up or go down based on the abilities and the progress of the student. This makes it advantageous to the students because they can continue to progress.”

This would be handled through guided reading and every student goes to guided reading and they are divided out by their abilities.

A second problem could rear its head a year later, students that do not advance in reading and comprehension but are proficient in mathematics, science and social studies at a fourth grade level must be taught at that fourth-grade level. This could go on for more than one year.

This becomes a problem when students enter the fifth grade and are still at a fourth-grade reading level because students from the two elementary schools are then bused to Wapakoneta Middle School for fifth grade. The students would have to be taught science, math and social studies at the fifth-grade level, offered at Wapakoneta Middle School, while still receiving intervention at the fourth-grade level.

School administrators said contingency plans would have to be developed to deal with this situation. Selvaggio said school board members will be aware of the solution.

“You will be more involved in this programming,” Selvaggo said, “because it will have to be part of the school policy and would have to be adopted by you.”