Courtesy Tulsa Public Schools on Facebook Students hope to get the reading help in the classroom that they missed during the pandemic.

Oklahoma City literacy rates fall below grade level

Due to the pandemic and online learning, students’ reading and math scores have fallen below the national average, and schools are trying to bridge the gap.

Following the pandemic, schools across the nation were prepared to see literacy rates drop in subjects all around. Unfortunately, the rates in Oklahoma City Public School systems are significantly below the average that would have been expected nationally in both reading and math scores in fourth and eighth grade students.

The pandemic allowed students to fall through the cracks because of the lack of individual attention that they could have ordinarily received in the classroom. Teachers would have been able to ensure that students were truly reading or practicing their math skills if everyone had been in the classroom, but because so much of the schooling process was taking place in the home, parents became more responsible for children’s learning, and they may not have had the time available in order to truly aid their kids’ learning process.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reports the reading and math abilities of students in the fourth and the eighth grades, important years that determine if students have learned the reading and math skills they will need to move onto middle school and high school. NAEP does not test every student in the district, but rather a population of a school district that is “statistically representative” of the whole.

This year, the NAEP reports that there was an eight point drop in fourth grade reading levels, and a seven point drop in eighth grade reading levels in Oklahoma. The national average was a three point drop for both grades.

Math scores were reported to have fallen even worse in Oklahoma. Fourth graders experienced an eight point drop, while eighth graders saw a 13 point drop. Nationally, the rates were five and eight points for fourth and eighth graders respectively.

Joy Hoffmeister, current State Superintendent, launched the Science of Reading Initiative at the start of the school year in order to help bridge the gap between the lowered reading scores that were seen across the state’s public schools and what is expected from students at the age levels. The goal with this program is to effectively teach educators the “why” of learning to read. It focuses on how students learn to read, why they struggle and what teachers can do in order to assist students who are struggling. This will aim to improve the speed at which teachers can teach students how to read because they will understand exactly how and why students are making the mistakes that they are. This is a $13 million initiative in federal relief that is expected to reach over 10,000 teachers across the state over the course of the next three years.

In order to attempt to combat these drastic drops in literacy rates, other programs, like Reading Partners, are paired with children in kindergarten to the fourth grade who are showing that they are six months to two and a half years below grade standards for reading. This program takes volunteers ages 18 and older in the community to meet with students twice a week to give them the additional individual help that they need in order to succeed.

Oklahoma schools are expected to turn around the poor literacy levels that the state is currently facing with hard work from the teachers and parents, but most of all, the students. It will take time for students to catch up, and maybe even get ahead, but it will be done with support from everyone in children’s lives.

Post Author: Erika Brock