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2/23/2012 10:14:00 AM
EDITORIAL: Let's not panic over upcoming third-grade reading tests

Pharos-Tribune

Here’s our best advice for anyone worried about next month’s reading test for third-graders: Relax.

Certainly, the test is a big deal. Any child who fails to pass cannot technically move on to the fourth grade.

Still, fretting won’t help. It will simply add to the pressure and make it all the more likely that a child will be overcome by anxiety.

The odds are most third-graders will do OK on the test, but it’s always troubling to have so much riding on a single exam.

What if the child simply has a bad day? Or what if he or she is simply worn out with tests?

The reading test comes almost on the heels of the annual Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress, and educators are worried that some students by then will simply have reached their limits.

Nevertheless, we understand the goal of the exam. As the Indiana Department of Education points out in a memo to parents, research has shown that youngsters spend their time leading up to third grade learning to read. By fourth grade, though, they’re reading to learn.

That means kids who have not mastered reading begin to fall behind, and by the time they get to be teenagers, they are starting to tune out.

Some states actually estimate the number of prison cells they’ll need based on third-grade reading scores. Youngsters who have not mastered reading by that point, the experts say, are more likely to drop out of school and go on to lives of crime.

And so, what this test will determine next month really does matter.

Local educators are right in expressing concerns about the weight placed on one 40-question test. There really should be a way to assess student progress based on the evidence from an entire school year.

And to their credit, local administrators say they will take those other factors into account. They won’t keep a child in third grade, they say, based on the results of just one test.

What the state will require them to do is to work with youngsters who fail the test to make sure they have the skills they need to pass the next time around.

And that’s a good thing. It is critical for schools to catch reading problems early and address them before a child falls hopelessly behind.

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Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR


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