If you’re not an educator, parent of a second or third grader, or regularly involved in the school’s activities, it is unlikely you’ve even heard of this newest piece of legislation from Governor Kasich and the Ohio Department of Education.
They call it the Third Grade Reading Guarantee and it’s basically a program designed to make sure students are on grade level according to the Ohio Achievement Assessment (OAA) at the end of third grade. This all sounds nice, but what does this new law really mean?
Students who are not part of the exclusion groups, like children with disabilities and students for whom English is a second language, that do not obtain a certain score on their OAA Reading Assessment will be held back in the third grade to receive extra reading help.
The thought behind this being that students need to be able to read in all academic areas and they want to help prepare these kids before the work gets any harder. Students who are held back are supposed to get research based reading intervention for 90 minutes every day.
Wow! The government is trying to help the students be more successful readers! Great idea right? Wrong. Here are the issues;
- Students whose parents refuse to allow them to receive special needs services, despite having a learning disability, do not qualify for the exempted groups and will be held back,
- Currently there are no research based reading programs designed to last 90 minutes, so schools are going to have to use multiple programs, which means they will need funds for teacher training, program materials, and progress monitoring.
- There are significant social implications for students who are being held back; maturity, size, other academic skills, and knowing that their peers have moved on without them are just a few of the potential issues.
- Where will the funding for teachers, training, and pull out time come from?
- And lastly, what about students who have test anxiety or weren’t emotionally able to test well that day due to family problems, social issues, or other mental distractions?
This appears to be a clear cut case of law makers creating demands but not providing the tools or funds to meet the demands successfully. Over time, the cut of score will rise from between limited and proficient to proficient and possibly higher.
Some students can read well enough to get by, might be great at math and science, and can have solid careers in their future, but will never be considered a good reader and they’re going to be punished by this new law. We can’t stop it from being implemented this year, and possibly not next year either, but it appears a revision of this law would greatly benefit everyone.