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Third grade reading test letters cause confusion, worry for parents

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OKLAHOMA CITY - A new reading test, which is supposed to help examine if students are getting the education they need before moving forward, is causing concern for several local parents.

For the first time, third graders who don’t pass the reading portion of the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test and do not take advantage of several other exemption options will not be promoted to the fourth grade.

State Superintendent Janet Baressi tried to set the record straight Monday about the new 'Reading Sufficiency Act,' saying the new third grade reading test that determines whether a student will advance to the fourth grade is not a one-day event.

"Retention is a last resort," Baressi said at the State Capitol.  "I want to dispel the myth that this is one test on one day for our children."

However, one local parent says the only message they've received from her child's elementary school is the false notion that this one spring test determines everything.

Rian Traut, an Edmond third grader, is doing the best she can to learn to read at home.

However, testing has shown she's reading at a second grade level.

Her mom, Carissa, received a letter saying, "recent screening data has indicated that your student falls within the at-risk range in reading skills."

It said Rian may not advance to the fourth grade if she doesn't pass the state's new reading test, even though she received a "B" in reading at Russell Dougherty Elementary.

"This is it.  It's all or nothing," Carissa said about the new test.  "You fail this test, you're staying in the third grade, no matter what."

She added, "I remember them saying, 'There's nothing we can do about it.  It's pass or fail."

However, that information is not entirely true.

Even without passing the upcoming test, students can pass the third grade through a portfolio of work, alternative tests at a later date and even taking a summer reading academy.

Rian said, "A lot of people said third grade is the hardest grade in the whole entire world and it kind of scared me."

According to Dee Allenbach, owner of ClubZ! Tutoring, test anxiety remains a problem for kids who hear rumors about the test's importance.

She said, "It makes them hate reading and makes them hate school, and I think it's a lot of pressure on the child."

Allenbach says a child's test anxiety can be calmed with one-on-one help, even by a parent reading to their child every night and asking them to explain what they just read.

She said, "You get more done [one-on-one] than in eight hours in the classroom."

The school letter also says a student will be receiving intensive reading instruction at school.

There are a total of six good cause exemptions to the test as well.

All that information is on the State Department of Education's website.