Originally created 06/02/04

Fewer pupils fail reading test



Almost 15 percent of Richmond County third-graders failed to pass a state reading test required for promotion to the fourth grade, Superintendent Charles Larke said Tuesday.

Out of 2,590 third-graders, 377 did not meet the standards. For the first time, those who failed must retake the test over the summer, appeal to the principal or be retained in third grade, school officials said.

Dr. Larke said the school district was expecting a quarter of all third-graders to fail based on estimates from State Superintendent Kathy Cox.

"Principals were very pleased with the results," Dr. Larke said. "They were looking for 25 percent, so they are pleased."

But Dr. Larke said he would like to reduce the figure to single digits next year.

Many of those who failed began summer school classes Tuesday after other tests revealed they needed the extra help, said Dr. Virginia Bradshaw, the assistant superintendent of instruction. Everyone who failed will be allowed to retake the test June 22, including those whose parents chose not to place them in summer school.

Dr. Bradshaw said those parents can call 737-7132 for information on test sites.

Eighty-three Richmond County pupils were held back last year, but the last time the test was given to third-graders, in 2001-02, 577 failed the reading portion, representing 22 percent of test-takers.

This year, 29 of 35 elementary schools used a research-based Voyager program to teach reading, and all of them will be using it during the new school year, Dr. Bradshaw said. The program, for pupils between kindergarten and third grade, was extremely successful at Gracewood Elementary School, where all second-graders tested on their grade level this year.

Last month, the Richmond County school system was awarded nearly $10 million in state grants to help ensure all children can read by third grade. The system also has a summer school in place for elementary pupils, along with after-school and Saturday programs for those who need additional tutoring.

Testing was the most hotly contested issue in the General Assembly this year, but in the end legislators refused to delay implementation of a 2002 law designed to end social promotion.

Education bill H.B. 1190, which passed this year, includes several measures to help those who fail.

Third-graders who fail after two attempts will be put in a transitional class the next year and will receive concentrated reading instruction. If they can pass the test, they can move to fourth grade.

The Criterion-Referenced Competency Test assesses a pupil's knowledge of the Georgia curricula in language arts, reading and mathematics.

Next year, fifth-graders will have to meet testing standards before being promoted, and eighth-graders will be added the subsequent year.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.