The new bill would abolish retention under Ohio’s third-grade reading guarantee.

The new bill will eliminate the withholding under Ohio’s third-grade Reading Guarantee and is almost identical to the previous bill, which was defeated in the last General Assembly.

House Bill 117 was introduced last week by State Rep. Gail Manning, R-North Ridgeville State, and State Rep. Phil Robinson, D-Solon.

“I have nothing against the hold,” Manning said. “But we just think the parent should have a say in that.”

The Ohio Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which was introduced in 2012, requires third graders to pass a reading test in order to advance to fourth grade. Third grade students must score at least 685 on a test in the current school year to advance to fourth grade. For English literature, scores on the scale range from 650 to 850.

Manning, who has been a teacher for 37 years and has taught third grade for most of her career, said English language skills assessments will continue to be conducted once a year under HB 117.

“Retention in kindergarten or first grade is not as noticeable or as detrimental to the child,” she said. “But for many of those (third-graders), if they are left, it is very difficult for them. Kids laugh at them years later.”

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday it was important to focus on early childhood literacy “so that the retention problem doesn’t come into the life of the student.”

“There’s no reason why we can’t get our students to read at grade level to third grade,” he said.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, each school year, a small percentage of students fail to advance through the Third Grade Reading Guarantee program.

About 1% of third grade students have not reached the promotion threshold for the 2021-22 school year; 1.38% for the 2020-21 academic year; 1% for the 2019-20 academic year; 5% for the 2018-19 academic year; 5% for the 2017-18 academic year; 6.1% for the 2016-17 academic year; and 6.6% for the 2015-16 academic year.

Ohio Educators Support HB 117

Both Ohio Teacher Union Associations are for HB 117.

“What we don’t want to do is suck the joy out of learning, especially suck the joy out of learning to read for our students,” said Scott DiMauro, president of the Ohio State Educational Association. “We don’t want the pressure of one test a day and everything that affects student achievement to outweigh the fact that teachers who work with children in the classroom every day know what their children are capable of.”

Melissa Cropper, president of the Ohio State Federation of Teachers, worries that holding back students over a standardized test could have unintended consequences.

“You’re putting the student on a path of further dropouts in the future because they’re further behind their peers,” she said.

Research shows that retaining students results in short-term academic success that wanes over time. Research also shows that repeat students most likely to be blocked, and students who are old for their class are more may be bullied or exhibit aggressive behavior.

Cropper believes the emphasis should be on literacy over standardized testing.

“What we need to do is focus on what we teach kids, make sure they have the proper support they need, and focus less on standardized testing and more on making sure we have enough intervention specialists and enough resources and support to be able to provide students with the individual assistance they may need,” she said.

Manning and Robinson co-sponsored the previous version of the bill. Home Act 497who passed 82-10 in the House of Representatives in June but never made it out of the Senate.

Even though the bill died last session, Manning is hopeful that the bill will pass this time.

“We hope we just ran out of time when we got to the Senate,” she said. “I hope that if we can do it early enough, we will have enough time to do it before they break.”

State Rep. Riordan McClain, R-Upper Sandusky, voted against HB 497.

“Reading is the foundation of learning success, and I have concerns about the consequences of deprioritizing it,” he said in an email.

McClain recently introduced the “Backpack Bill”. this will make all public, private, and home school students in grades K-12 eligible for a public stipend to be funded through an Education Savings Account (ESA) to attend a participating non-public school or be homeschooled. Parents could use ESA to pay for tuition, fees, school uniforms, and textbooks.

Ohio English test

According to the ODE, the percentage of students who passed at least below average in Ohio’s third-grade English exam has fluctuated in recent years, but the number tested has also declined.

About 61% of students in 2017-2018 achieved at least an average score; 66.7% in 2018–2019; 44.2% in 2019-2020; 51.9% in 2020-21; and 59.8% in 2021-2022.

In December 2021, DeWine signed legislation that exempts school districts from withholding requirements under the Third Grade Reading Guarantee for the 2021–22 school year. Students may still have been held back if their parents, principal, and teacher agreed that a student was reading below grade level and not ready for fourth grade.

Ohio Reading Scores Declined on National Report Card administered by the National Center for Education Statistics. Ohio fourth graders’ reading ability has fallen from 38% in 2019 to 33% in 2022, and eighth graders have also fallen from 38% in 2019 to 33% in 2022.

DeWine focuses on literacy

DeWine’s budget proposal, which he unveiled earlier this year, prioritizes education and children’s literacy and includes a $162 million reading science proposal that includes $64 million for reading science curricula, $43 million each year. over the next two years to offer education in the science of reading for educators. and $12 million to support 100 literacy coaches in schools and districts.

The science of reading is decades of research that shows how the human brain learns to read.

“Unfortunately, we still have a few schools in Ohio that don’t follow the best science,” DeWine said. “We need to make sure that every child in Ohio has the opportunity to read based on the best science.”

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