Tulsa Public Schools Vow To Tackle Dismal Reading Scores


Tuesday, October 23rd 2012, 6:43 pm
By: Emory Bryan


Tulsa Public Schools is promising to do whatever it takes to improve reading scores, after a dismal report that shows students are losing ground, especially in the early grades.

Reading is the most basic skill taught at school, but a lot of students in Tulsa can't read well and they're not catching up, even after years in class.

Many of the children in the 4th grade reading class at Anderson Elementary are behind their grade level in reading, as are the majority of elementary students at Tulsa Public Schools.

Their teacher says some 4th graders really can't read, at all.

"Some of them [are] years and years behind grade level," said teacher Jericho Hobson.

The inability to read is closely tied to poverty and Tulsa has plenty of poor families in the district.

But research by TPS has exposed an issue with strategy and a history of rolling out lots of programs, but not devoting time in the classroom to do any of them as well as they could.

10/22/2012 Related Story: TPS Superintendent Pitches Continuous Learning Calendar

"You can add more time, but if you don't have quality instruction and the programs to support those kids, what's the point of more time?" said TPS Assistant Superintendent Tracy Bayles.

The reading scores for TPS show most elementary students - 62% - are below grade level. For junior high, 46% are behind and even in high school, 48% of students cannot read on grade level.

Superintendent Keith Ballard said he's focused on the scores and wants to launch a new effort to improve them by increasing time in class and using new technology.

Many teachers believe they can speed up the progress if they're given the class sizes and class time to carry out strategies that are proven to work.

"You don't have time to waste, they've obviously had wasted time somewhere, that they are beginning readers in 4th grade. We don't have to worry about that, let's start right now and move them forward," Hobson said.

The latest reading scores for 4th – 10th grades show about 45% of Tulsa students are at grade level or above.

Getting the rest of them up to par is the challenge, and that's what's driving the push for changing the school calendar—to create a chance for children to spend more time in class.