Tulsa Public Schools Administration Reacts To State Reading Scores

Friday, May 9th 2014, 6:51 pm
By: Emory Bryan

Nearly 8,000 Oklahoma third-graders failed a reading test they are required to pass in order to be promoted to the fourth grade.

In Tulsa, there were more than 700 students who are at risk of being held back.

In Tulsa, one in every three third-graders failed the test, which means they're reading at a first-grade level or below.

5/9/2014 Related Story: 33 Percent Of Tulsa Public Schools Third-Graders Fail Reading Test

Tulsa's superintendent was upset about the scores and how they were rolled out by the state, claiming the media had the numbers before the district saw them.

But he did not dispute the accuracy of the measurement.

"I am really not in a position where I'm going to talk about blame," Ballard said. "These kids come to school without being prepared with their language as other kids do. We must accept responsibility for that."

Tulsa Public Schools has focused more on reading in the last year than ever before, with a wide range of programs the district believes are working.

But the state tests showed significant problems:

  • In Tulsa - Anderson Elementary had 68 percent of the students failed.
  • At Emerson, 64 percent failed.
  • The district average shows 34 percent of the students failed.
  • But At Lanier and Zarrow, every student passed.

Ballard said because of the amount of information schools have to digest, it would be early next week before parents get the scores on their children.

The schools first have to determine which children qualify for one of six exceptions that allow them to fail the test but still be promoted to fourth grade.

"We won't know the number of children who ...exemptions that exist," Chris Johnson said.

The district is preparing a summer school program big enough to handle all of the third-graders who don't qualify -- a number certain to be in the hundreds -- but somewhere less than the full 700 children who didn't pass.

"We are doing more district internventions... we have not been able to get our kids into longer days, or summer interventions. Those are the things I think will help these kids in catching up," Ballard said.

See Third-Grade Reading Scores By District

See Third-Grade Reading Scores By Tulsa School Campus

In Jenks, 782 students took the test and 69 failed.

In Sand Springs, 46 students failed, but the district said 20 of those were special needs students.

At Union, 234 out of 1,171 students failed -- which is 20 percent.

TPS and Union said it will mail letters with scores to parents as soon as possible and the schools will discuss with parents and teachers what the next step will be.

As it stands now, children can be promoted to fourth as long as they pass the test by Nov. 1.

Some districts will start in the fall with blended classes of kids in fourth grade, with holdover kids technically in third, going out for intensive reading instruction. Jenks is already doing that.

TPS isn't sure yet, but says it will have a variety of methods, which differ by school site.

One thing could change everything: There's a bill in the legislature to give the power of promotion back to parents and teachers.

That bill sounds likely to pass on Monday, but the Governor's office said this afternoon she's not sure if she'll sign it.