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IREAD casualties: 12 students held back

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HANDOCK COUNTY — When teachers and administrators prepared to put the county’s 903 third-graders through the first IREAD-3 exam last spring, many had trepidations.

The stakes were high: If a child failed the test, he or she risked being retained in third grade. Some administrators feared their classrooms would swell this school year from the number of kids who failed last year.

But the final tally of students who weren’t promoted to fourth grade wound up being relatively small, according to figures compiled this week from the four county public school systems: Countywide, 12 students didn’t move up to fourth grade.

Administrators generally are pleased with the result. The success is due in part to remediation programs the schools put in place and the flexibility schools had to grant exemptions.

When the test was administered last spring, 75 did not pass. After remediation programs and a chance to retake the test during the summer, 12 failed it a second time and have been retained in the third grade.

But the number could have been higher: 25 students received what is known as a Good Cause Exemption. It allowed them to move on to the fourth grade despite not passing the test.

The high-stakes exam, given for the first time this year, is designed to gauge third-graders’ reading skills.

Eight Greenfield-Central students are repeating third grade. Eastern Hancock held back two, while Southern Hancock and Mt. Vernon each kept one student back.

Thirty-one G-C students failed the test in the spring. Nineteen passed the second test; five received exemptions.

Ann Vail, G-C’s assistant superintendent, said the decision to retain eight students was based on multiple criteria.

“The IREAD certainly was involved in that, but there were multiple pieces of evidence that teachers, parents and principals were looking at when making those decisions,” she said.

At Eastern Hancock, 12 students retook the test, and nine of the third-graders passed. That meant 64 out of 68 third-graders moved on to the fourth grade via the test; two were given exemptions. Two students are repeating third grade.

“I’m really happy with our numbers,” Eastern Hancock Principal Amanda Pyle said.

While she’s in favor of the test to gauge a student’s ability to read, she said parents and educators need to remember, it’s only one of many benchmarks for students.

“From what we’ve seen of the test, we feel like IREAD-3 was kind of a minimum competency,” Pyle said.

“I feel like it was a fair test, but it was pretty basic information.”

Six students took the test again during the summer in Mt. Vernon schools. Five had failed in the spring, while one was a new student. Of the six, four passed the test. Mt. Vernon awarded 10 exemptions altogether; one was retained, Assistant Superintendent Mike Horton said.

“While I do not believe one test is a true measure of any child’s abilities, reality is such that this is probably the best one could expect for a first-time exam for reading,” he said.

Horton was pleased the state allowed districts to offer exemptions for special education and other students because of the complexity of their learning styles and needs.

Southern Hancock curriculum director Rhonda Peterson said her district gave exemptions to eight students, while eight passed the summer test.

Now that the first year of testing is behind them Peterson said there is a sigh of relief.

“We didn’t really know how this was going to go,” she said.

For the most part, Peterson and other educators are pleased with the results.

“It took care of the students where retention wasn’t the answer, so all in all, I think the testing was a good thing,” Peterson said.

While IREAD-3 is one more accountability test to make sure schools are doing everything they can to see that students are progressing, it may be one of the most important measures used in education, some educators say.

“Research is pretty clear on the fact that if students are not reading on grade level by the time they complete the third grade, their chances of future academic success is limited,” Horton said.

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