Area third graders have up to three times to pass a state-mandated third grade reading summative assessment before districts determine whether to retain them.
At least 12 students in the Golden Triangle were retained this year based solely on the results of their assessments, while others were promoted by good cause exemptions, which include students with disabilities, students learning English as a second language and students who were previously retained.
Lowndes County School District
The 19 third graders who retook the assessment were all promoted by good cause exemption, LCSD Assistant Superintendent Robin Ballard said. They retested in May.
While none of the students are being retained, Ballard said each student will receive extra help in reading.
“All of those students who had to have a good cause exemption are required to have an (Individual Reading Plan),” Ballard said.
She added the district screens students for math and reading deficiencies three times per year separately from the assessment, and that any students identified as having reading difficulties from those screenings also get IRPs.
Good cause exemptions include students who are non-native English speakers and some students with disabilities. Special education students who are exempted because of disabilities have IEPs (individual education plans) in addition to IRPs, Ballard said.
Starkville-Oktibbeha School District
In the newly consolidated Starkville-Oktibbeha School District, 12 third graders are being retained, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum/Instruction Jody Woodrum said.
“We initially gave the test in April and students that did not pass and did not meet good cause exemption took the first retest in May,” Director of Assessment and Intervention Julie Fancher said.
Thirty students retook the test in May and 22 qualified for good cause exemption, Fancher said.
“We actually had a few extra weeks between the first test that everybody took and the first retest than we had the year before, so that was nice,” Woodrum said. “We did some extra instruction, pulling those students aside and working on the particular areas of need that they individually had, so that was great.”
The students who are being retained or who qualified for good cause exemption all will receive intervention services. The district provides such services for every school with grades K-8, Fancher said. She and Woodrum said the district also offers summer school, several after school programs and other programs to help students with reading.
None of the students who were retained after taking the test in the 2014-15 school year were retained again this year, Fancher said.
“We worked very hard to provide intense reading interventions for these students,” Fancher said. “If students continued to struggle … and data recorded a possible reading disability, students were referred to Student Support Services for a comprehensive evaluation. This allowed some students to be qualified for a good cause exemption.”
Columbus Municipal School District
CMSD Superintendent Philip Hickman did not release the number of third graders who were either retained or promoted to fourth grade based on good cause exemption. Responding to an Open Records request The Dispatch submitted last week, Hickman said he consulted the Mississippi Department of Education, which advised him not to release the information.
A spokesperson from MDE told The Dispatch districts do not have to release retention rates until November.
Hickman did say the students who were retained or promoted by good cause exemption receive extra help through district programs. Many of those students, he said, had already been identified by educators in the district as having reading difficulties.