To track their progress, she has a manila folder with sticky tabs in it representing each student. When she gives reading assessment tests, she puts a student’s tab under headings for areas in which the student struggles, such as vocabulary. This helps her identify students who need small-group learning or one-on-one study time with her teaching assistant.
Clarke says she supports the reading act’s read-or-fail provision because it will motivate educators to focus on teaching reading.
“I think too many kids are not on grade level and are allowed to be promoted,” Clarke said. “It makes it harder for next year’s teacher to have a child come in below grade level.”
But retention alone won’t work, she said.
Parents must ensure their children get to school and help them learn at home, and lawmakers must fund mandates and hire enough teachers to reduce class sizes, she said. If those groups don’t work together, her job becomes difficult.
The reading law: Oklahoma’s reading act was passed in the 1990s mainly to provide funding to help first- and third-grade students improve reading skills. In 2011, after heated debate, lawmakers added test-based promotion.
The law requires school districts to assess children’s reading levels in kindergarten; each school must submit reading plans on how to improve strugglers’ skills.
Starting in 2014, third-graders who score “unsatisfactory” on the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test for reading will be held back unless they are given an exemption.
Exemptions include having limited English proficiency, passing state-approved alternative assessment tests or providing a teacher’s documentation proving the child has adequate reading skills. Students who complete a summer reading program are also eligible for promotion, at the teacher’s discretion.
Retained students can be promoted mid-year if they pass a state-approved assessment test or develop a reading portfolio to prove their ability to read at grade level.