OKLAHOMA CITY – There is a lot on the line this summer for some Oklahoma elementary students.
For the first time, about sixteen percent of Oklahoma third graders are in danger of not being promoted to fourth grade after unsatisfactory scores on the third grade reading test.
Putnam City Schools is seeing some of their highest summer enrollment numbers ever.
This year, it’s the same for most districts around the state.
There isn’t any recess or playtime, just three intensive hours of nothing but reading every day.
Putnam City had 324 students score unsatisfactory. After exemptions, they’ve narrowed it down to 183 third graders who need extra attention this summer.
The district’s language arts coordinator, Melissa Ahlgrim, says this is a lot harder than it looks.
They are divided into groups that work at different stations, learning new skills and reviewing old ones.
She says there is a lot more that goes into being able to read that adults don’t realize.
“It’s a long laundry list of skills that if we’re missing a couple here or there it does affect the overall reading,” says Ahlgrim. “We have to understand the decoding part and then we have to be able to chunk it together to make sense. Then it comes down to understand what happened when I read those words.”
After a summer of instruction they will take the reading test again. However, a second unsatisfactory score is not the final decision.
Teachers and principals look at the entire summer as an ongoing assessment.
“The actual decision making needs to be with those people who work closely with that child,” says Ahlgrim.
She asks are they close enough? If not what are they going to do differently next year?
“Just retention, just repeating the same grade, it’s like talking to someone who is deaf and saying it again louder and slower and hoping that they’ll hear you,” says Ahlgrim. “They’re still deaf, they still don’t get it.”
She says something has to change.
After taking phone call after phone call from parents in tears, Ahlgrim thinks Putnam City has the summer program to ease anxiety.
“Our kids are extensions of ourselves,” says Ahlgrim. “It becomes a very personal situation when we feel like we have failed at something.”