, Muskogee, OK

January 18, 2014

In third grade, kids get added attention

School districts find weaknesses through tests, then offer tutoring

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Schools use remediation, tutoring and testing to keep third-graders from being held back another year.

A state law enacted in 2011 says third-graders who score “unsatisfactory” on the reading test must be held back unless they meet one of six exemptions. This year’s third-graders are the first class to be affected by the law. The law also authorizes screening instruments to monitor student reading progress in the grades leading to third grade.

Teachers at Muskogee Public Schools test students to identify areas where they are weak, said MPS Elementary Education Director Clevetta Gray.

The district has hired teachers to tutor students before and after school, and it also employs reading interventionists who work with students in small groups during the school day, Gray said.

Teachers and interventionists make sure students know the “Big Five” parts of reading: phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary and reading comprehension, she said.

Gray said the district has not determined how many third-graders are at risk of unsatisfactory reading scores. She said results of benchmark assessments should be available later this week.

Hilldale Elementary Principal Kair Ridenhour said the school is working to ensure all students get full reading instruction.

“Every student gets 90 minutes of reading instruction in the classroom,” he said. The school also gets its reading specialists and special education teachers involved in helping improve reading.

“We have after-school tutoring for third-graders,” Ridenhour said.

The tutoring is for any student, not just those at risk, he said.

Amie Sheets, who teaches third grade in Hilldale, said, “Any kids who are struggling get additional help.”

She said the law has not changed the way she teaches reading or her dedication to it. She relies on small groups, reading specialists or after-school tutoring.

“Some get all three depending on if parents let the students stay after school,” she said.

Fort Gibson Early Learning Center Principal Shelly Holderby said students who need remediation are identified and put on an academic program that involves more intensive, individualized reading instruction.

“Students on the plan are continuously monitored for progression so that instruction can be targeted and tailored to fit their needs,” Holderby said. “We are also working with our parents so they can provide help at home.”

 Hulbert Schools also have worked to get students reading on grade level, said Superintendent Marilyn Dewoody.

“If children are not reading on grade level, we put them on a reading plan,” Dewoody said.

The Reading Sufficiency Act will be among the topics Hulbert Schools officials will discuss at a public meeting set for 6 p.m. Thursday.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or