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OKCPS Announces New Strategy To Improve Students' Reading Skills

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

The Oklahoma City Public Schools announced on Thursday its five-point strategy focused on supporting students struggling in reading.

The district has completed its evaluation of the preliminary 2014 third grade reading scores. Of the 3,445 third grade students who completed the state required reading test, 63 percent scored advanced, proficient or showed limited knowledge in reading, while 27 percent scored unsatisfactory, according to the OKCPS.

5/9/2014 Related Story: 16 Percent Of OK Third-Graders Fail State Reading Test

The district has begun the process of evaluating the preliminary results and identified as many as 259 students who could possibly qualify for "good cause exemptions" that allow promotion to the fourth grade.

Good Cause Exemption #1 (pertains to English language learners) - 76 students

Good Cause Exemption #2 (Oklahoma Alternative Assessment Program) - 61 students

Good Cause Exemption #5 (special education students who have been retained once) - 115 students

Good Cause Exemption #6 (students who have been retained twice) - 7 students

The number of students with exemptions will likely increase as students who scored unsatisfactory complete portfolios, take an alternative assessment and/or participate in summer school opportunities, according to school officials.

District leaders are currently visiting schools and providing on-site support to principals in completing Good Cause Request Forms.

The District is notifying parents of their student's performance and scheduling individual parent/teacher conferences for every third grade student. These conferences will take place through June 6.

"Our immediate focus is on doing all we can to assist students to be strong readers now and prepare them for reading in the future," said Dave Lopez, OKCPS Interim Superintendent.

Oklahoma City Public Schools is implementing five new strategies to support students and improve reading skills for the youngest students:

• Teach for America Summer University (June 9-July 10)

• Summer STEAM Academy at FD Moon (June 9-July 3)

• 3rd Grade Summer Reading Academy (July 14-July 25)

• Increase English Language Learner Staff (August 2014)

• Pilot with Payne Education Center (Beginning June 2014)

"The Teach for America Summer University will be offered at several secondary sites and particularly at 11 elementary school sites to serve students in need of reading remediation and support in strengthening reading skills," said Pat Watson-Hunt, OKCPS Director of Elementary Education. "We have identified students who will benefit from this summer program and the response has been great with more than 900 elementary students already enrolled to participate," added Watson-Hunt.

The District is partnering with Payne Education Center in a pilot program which provides 16 additional reading coaches and summer training opportunities for teachers at 11 elementary schools.

The District will also offer a reading academy for more than 1,200 students during July. Highly qualified teachers will lead students on two weeks of intensive reading instruction.

At the end of the summer, students will take an alternative test to assess their reading level. Based on their scores the students may qualify for a good cause exemption. OKCPS is also partnering with the Oklahoma After-School Network to provide a summer reading academy for students at FD Moon Academy. The four-week course will serve about 200 students and reinforce reading and math skills.

In August, the District will increase ELL staffing to better serve students with limited English skills.

"We can't rest until we do all we can so that a student's difficulty in reading today does not determine that child's destiny. The responsibility is on the adults, educators, parents and the District," Lopez said.

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