Nate Robson
Nate Robson

May 15, 2015

Fewer students are at risk of repeating third grade for failing Oklahoma’s reading exam this year, according to preliminary test results released Friday.

Data shows 14.6 percent of third graders, or 7,311 students, are at risk of repeating the grade after scoring at the lowest level – “unsatisfactory” – on the state’s reading exam.

Last year’s results showed 16 percent, or 7,861 students, were at risk of repeating the grade.

Approximately 2,533 students were actually held back last year.

Here are how preliminary results compared from 2014 and 2015:

2014 Third Gade Reading Results

Limited Knowledge6,99814.5%

2015 Third Grade Reading Results

Limited Knowledge7,98115.9%

The state Department of Education is not releasing this year’s school-by-school data until the results are certified. The deadline for certification is July 3.

Tulsa Public Schools officials said they saw a slight increase in scores, but were still reviewing the results.

Tracy Bayles, Tulsa’s chief academic officer, said she was mystified at why the state released the numbers Friday since they are “very preliminary.”

Oklahoma City Public Schools is also reviewing the results and is notifying parents and students.

The district did not elaborate on what their preliminary data shows.

While the number of students potentially at risk of retention decreased statewide, there was almost no change in the percentage of students who scored below proficient.

In 2014, 30.9 percent of students scored below a proficient level on the exam compared with 30.5 percent this year.

A bill is working its way through the Legislature that could put all students scoring below proficient at risk of retention. That bill would also expand reading remediation to all students in grades three or lower who are not reading at a proficient level.

Lawmakers said expanding the retention requirement could put an additional 7,000 students at risk of repeating the grade.

The bill also keeps a team of parents and teachers involved in the retention process for another three years.

In Alex Public Schools, Superintendent Jason James said almost all of his students passed the exam this year. Nearly half failed last year.

James said the biggest difference is he hired a new third grade teacher.

“It makes all the difference in the world,” James said. “That classroom teacher is the best weapon we have against the punitive measures of the (Reading Sufficiency Act). She’s worth her weight in gold.”

James said parents should not put too much stock into the slight improvements seen in this year’s preliminary test results because it’s partly a sign teachers are focused more on test preparation.

“Because it’s a high-stakes test, we’re going to borrow more time from other subjects like history to do test prep,” he said. “We don’t really teach reading, we test reading.”

Nate Robson can be reached at

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