State, districts call achievement tests promising

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, AP Statehouse Correspondent

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - School districts say results from Ohio's new third-grade achievement test are promising given that students were tested on material they won't learn until later in the year.

Of 131,701 third graders who took the new achievement test in October, 53.7 percent passed the test.

"We are encouraged that early in the school year, half of the students are reading at levels expected at the end of the year," said Susan Tave Zelman, state schools superintendent.

At South-Western city schools in central Ohio, a district growing by almost 500 students a year, 45 percent of 1,485 third graders passed the test. That means about 820 students must still pass the test this year.

"We're testing students on materials in some instances they haven't been exposed to yet," said district spokesman Jeffrey Warner. "When you have a March administration of that test, they'll have been exposed to the entire curriculum."

A bill before the Ohio House on Wednesday would push proficiency tests until May each year to make sure students are tested on everything they've learned.

At Sylvania City schools in northwest Ohio, 67 percent of the district's 550 third graders passed the test.

"It's the first time kids have taken a test of that nature and we're very pleased with the results," said district spokeswoman Nancy Crandell.

She said the district has several programs in place to help students who didn't pass the test.

White students outscored blacks on the state's first third-grade reading test, revealing a racial gap that has alarmed the state and lawmakers.

Only 27.8 percent of black students, or just over one in four, passed the third-grade achievement test. Asian students had the highest passage rate, 70 percent, followed by white students at 60 percent and Hispanic at 34.8 percent.

Among fourth-graders taking the October test, 63.6 percent of Asian students passed, compared with 55.7 percent of white students and 30.5 percent of Hispanic students. Only 24.2 percent of black students, or fewer than one in four, passed the test.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)