Playing Catch-up: TPS leaders hopes to stop troubling reading trend

LUCAS COUNTY, OH (WTOL) - Your child may be falling behind. Third grade reading test results are in and there's a chance your child won't go to 4th grade

Only one in 300 children in Lucas County owns a book, according to Read for Literacy.

But these same children must pass a timed, online reading test in order to go to 4th grade.

Playing Catch-up: How technology could put kids behind in school

"How do you get any better at any skill if you don't have the tools accessible to you to practice that skill?" said Diana Bush, vice president of Read for Literacy.

Districts face many hurdles in the state-mandated, but unfunded testing.

Toledo Public Schools says reading is the district's biggest challenge. Only 73 percent of TPS children were able to move on to 4th grade reading in 2015-16, before any exceptions. It's the lowest number of any district in northwest Ohio.

There are a lot of factors.

The district says it's poverty level is more than 70 percent. Many students regularly move between schools and most don't have computers at home to practice.

But TPS says the biggest factor is many parents are not getting their children help well before the third grade test.

"This isn't just a third grade test," said Jim Gault, TPS administrator. "This is actually preschool through third grade. If we look at that just as a third grade test, we'll miss all of the preventative opportunities that were available all the way up through pre-k through grade three."

Schools must begin gauging your child's literacy as early as preschool and they're assessed each year after that.

If your child is behind, a plan will be recommended to get them back on track.

"That reading improvement plan is developed by the teacher with parent input and is sent to the parents to let them know that, 'Here are the things that we're doing in the classroom to move that child up to where they should be,'" said Gault. "In that also, we ask them to please take advantage of the opportunities we have within the school as well as read with their children at home,"

That's where Read for Literacy comes in.

The group provides volunteers during school, after school and in the summer to work one-on-one with students.

"A significant number of children come to kindergarten not prepared to be in kindergarten. And, without intervention of a one-on-one sort that we can provide, those children will continue not succeeding in the classroom," said Bush. "Reading is a skill like anything else. And, if you don't practice it, you don't get better at it."

Gault says parents need to get involved and get help now.

"Parents, if your children have not reached the benchmark, it's crucial you get involved in the summer programming to where we can provide smaller group settings, where we can provide targeted instruction, to work with your child to give them two more opportunities to pass that test," said Gault. "We'd like to see all of our third graders be getting into fourth grade by August of next year."

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