Lisbon officials aim to improve reading skills

LISBON – Like other school districts around Columbiana County, Lisbon officials are doing what they can to improve the reading skills of their third-grade students who risk being held back if they fail the state literacy test.

Under the new and tougher standards, third-graders who fail to score proficient on the statewide reading exam could be held back, and none of the public schools in the county reached the proficiency standard when the test was last given in the fall.

The issue came up this week’s Lisbon school board meeting, where McKinley Elementary School Principal Dan Kemats said those students who failed to achieve proficiency will have the opportunity to take the test again this spring and again in July.

“I think the intention is good because we want our kids reading at the third-grade level” before moving onto the next grade, he said.

Board member Gene Gallo asked whether those third-grade students who fail to test proficient will be held back for reading classes only or the entire grade? “Will we, as a district, have some flexibility?” he asked.

School Superintendent Don Thompson indicated they would have flexibility when making the decision and questioned the wisdom of holding students back if they are doing well in other academic areas. “We all know that (across-the-board) retention is not the complete answer,” he said.

Curriculum director Helen Otto explained what steps the district has taken to improve the reading skills of students from kindergarten through third grade. She said Lisbon, along with East Liverpool, Crestview and East Palestine shared a $136,500 state grant received through the county Educational Service Center (ESC) to help students in those grades with their reading skills.

Lisbon used its share of the grant to help pay for professional development workshops hosted by the ESC last summer. Other money was used by the ESC to hire two reading “coaches” who were assigned to work with students in the school district a combined 18 hours per week.

Lastly, some of the money will be used to a host a family fun night at the elementary school that will emphasize the importance of reading and include free books and a raffle, with the winner receiving a bicycle.

“We feel very comfortable where we’re at right now,” Thompson said, adding they have identified those students who need additional help and they are getting it.

While the grant money is scheduled to go away, the reading requirement is not, Thompson said, which means the district will have to use its own funds to continue helping future third-grade students meet the reading proficiency requirement.