For the first time, at least 90 percent of the third-graders from each of Johnson County’s public school districts passed a test recently required by the state.
Third-graders locally and across Indiana took the IREAD-3 exam in March, and more than 90 percent of the 1,854 county students who were tested passed. That means they’re reading at or beyond grade level and can move on to fourth-grade reading lessons.
The percentage of students who passed the exam went up for Clark-Pleasant, Edinburgh, Greenwood and Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson schools and fell slightly for Center Grove and Franklin schools. The greatest improvement was at Clark-Pleasant — 94 percent of students passed IREAD-3 this year, up from 90 percent last year and 88 percent in 2012, according to information from the Indiana Department of Education.
“When you consider you’re already in the 90 percent pass range, jumping 4 (percentage points) is even bigger. So yeah, (we’re) certainly very happy. Very pleased with all of our staff at the schools,” director of curriculum and instruction Cameron Rains said.
Indiana began requiring the IREAD-3 exam in 2012, and the state’s passing rate improved slightly from 2013. About 86 percent of students tested passed the exam this spring, up from 85 percent last year, according to the department of education.
The goal of the test is to ensure students are reading at grade level before moving on to fourth grade. Research has shown that students who are behind in reading once they move beyond third grade take longer to catch up. Teachers locally and across Indiana agree that students’ reading skills should be tested, but many also worry about the high stakes of the test and don’t believe that one test is an accurate measurement of a student’s abilities.
The percentage of Clark-Pleasant students passing the test is improving because elementary school teachers watch for kids who are reading behind grade level and then immediately provide individual lessons, Rains said.
He plans to compare Clark-Pleasant’s passing rate with other school districts. That way he’ll know whether the local rate is rising faster than other Indiana school districts and what other methods the school district can use to improve students’ reading skills.
“Our goal is to do better than we’ve ever done before,” Rains said.
Work to ensure more students pass IREAD-3 cannot begin in third grade, Rains said. At Clark-Pleasant and other area school districts, teachers typically start tracking students’ reading abilities in kindergarten. That way they can tell earlier if a student is falling behind.
Elementary schools in Johnson County provide 90 minutes of reading each day for students. If students are behind, they spend more time working with teachers or reading coaches to improve the skills they haven’t mastered. That way, by the time students begin third grade, they’re already caught up and reading at grade level, Rains said.
“If a learning gap exists, close it as quickly as we can is kind of our goal,” Rains said.
School districts received the IREAD-3 results about a month ago. The 143 students who didn’t pass the test at Clark-Pleasant and the other five public school districts immediately started working with teachers and classroom aides to review the specific concepts they didn’t pass. Students will be retested in the summer, and they must pass that test to move on to fourth-grade reading lessons.