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APS on track with third-grade reading guarantee

3/13/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

The Akron Public Schools District (APS) is on target with efforts for implementing the third-grade reading guarantee, which requires Ohio public schools to make sure students are proficient in reading by the end of the third grade.

Mary Outley-Kelly, executive director of elementary schools, gave an overview of what the district has been doing over the current school year at the Board of Education’s (BOE) March 10 meeting.

According to baseline data gathered this past October, 67 percent of third-graders in the district were determined to be on track, leaving 33 percent, or 502 students, struggling toward reading proficiency, she said.

Outley-Kelly noted that some students are exempt from the retention requirement, including some children with disabilities, as determined on a case-by-case basis, and others who have been learning English for less than three years in the United States.

However, other children who do not pass a third-grade reading proficiency test will not be promoted to the fourth grade next year, although they will have the opportunity to retest this summer.

Interventions the district has been putting in place for struggling students include implementing reading improvement and monitoring plans for 916 third-graders, a number that includes 344 whose scores were identified as on track during testing last fall but put on the plans as safeguards, said Outley-Kelly.

On Feb. 11, all of the district’s third-grade teachers met to go over the teacher requirements now necessary under the guarantee. Outley-Kelly said 45 of the district’s 69 third-grade teachers currently have the necessary qualifications, and by the next school year she expects all of the district’s third-grade reading instructors to be qualified.

In related business, following its third and final reading, the BOE approved a revision to district policy regarding the guarantee.

According to district officials, the APS policy revision is to bring the district’s policy language in line with the state changes adding an alternative assessment to the Ohio Achievement Assessment (OAA) test in reading.

In other action, the board:

  • approved purchasing 21 Chromebook computers and a mini laptop cart for Crouse Community Learning Center (CLC) for around $10,000 using Title I funds;
  • approved an agreement with ZFX Flying Effects for Firestone High School’s upcoming performance of “Mary Poppins” that will provide for installation, training and rehearsal for a manual track flying system at a cost not exceed $4,050;
  • approved spending $12,720 for bus security upgrades, to include 24 replacement cameras, eight DVRs and miscellaneous repair parts;
  • approved extending a memorandum of understanding for the 2014-15 school year with Akron Summit Community Action Inc. for Head Start services at Helen Arnold, Portage Path and Robinson CLCs, with in-kind costs of $711,000;
  • approved purchasing a bus routing software program for configuring the most economical bus routes from Transfinder Software, for $54,995, after considering four other bids; and
  • accepted a $87,720 community service grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting on behalf of WAPS-FM 91.3, a member-supported public radio station operated by the APS BOE since 1955.

The board also accepted donations. Project RISE, which helps families experiencing homelessness, received from various benefactors tickets for several events in February, including RubberDucks Family Fun Day, Aladdin and Friends Madcap Puppet Show, Gospel Meets Symphony and Dance Theatre of Harlem.

OMNOVA Solutions Foundation made donations of $500 and $3,000 for support of the annual volunteer recognition banquet and the 2014 APS Zoo Backpack Adventure, respectively.

Following an executive session, the board approved three-year contracts with Child Nutrition Services employees and Local 778 employees, which represents foremen.

The contracts were in line with the Akron teachers’ contract approved last December, said board President Lisa Mansfield.

The board next will meet March 24 at 5:30 p.m. at the Sylvester Small Administration Building, 70 N. Broadway St.

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