TULSA — Reading proficiency in Oklahoma is putting a little more pressure on students and teachers these days.
The state is setting higher reading standards for third graders, which could impact a child's ability to move on to the fourth grade.
To prepare students for the future, teachers are raising the bar for kids as young as 4 years old.
"This age is so fun for learning,” Elena Beene, a lead teacher at Community Action Project (CAP) Tulsa McClure said. “They are exploring. They're excited about learning. They are really starting to own their own learning. They are getting invested."
The age at which students learn is critical, especially when it comes to reading.
"Reading helps you develop so many skills,” Jayme Whitson, another lead teacher at CAP Tulsa McClure said. “Comprehension skills… we can use reading to help all those other foundation skills like math and science."
Oklahoma is one of almost 20 states where third graders must meet specific standards in reading before going to the next grade, which is why children in pre-kindergarten now have higher expectations.
"We have objectives for all the kids,” Jennifer Daggs, a lead teacher at CAP Tulsa McClure said. “They are all the same. There's different levels for different age groups."
Studies show students who aren't skilled readers by third grade are four times less likely than other proficient readers to graduate from high school. Teachers at CAP Tulsa are working to close that gap.
"We are very data-driven here, and we have different ways of collecting it,” Beene said.
Teachers track things like literacy and the alphabet. They then use the data to tailor what they teach their students.
Each classroom also has an extra pair of teaching hands, and no more than 20 students.
"Having two teachers allows you to really work one on one with kids because there's somebody who is able to kind of monitor the rest of the room,” Whitson said.
The short-term goal is for the 4-year-olds to leave pre-kindergarten fully prepared for the next grade.
"The younger they are, and the better foundation they have, the more successful they'll be for kindergarten,” Daggs said.
The long-term is to have students on track to pass the state’s third grade reading exam, which in turn will correlate to how they perform in high school and beyond.
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