The following article was originally published in the Ohio Capital Journal and published on News5Cleveland.com under a content-sharing agreement.
A new bill supported by education groups across the state would mark the end of the third-grade reading retention requirements, but wouldn’t eliminate all the proficiency tests students during the year.
House Bill 497 would eliminate the Third Grade Reading Guarantee that would have held back students who didn’t show proper proficiency in reading. But the English Language Arts Assessment will still be administered once a year.
But that doesn’t mean teachers accountable for their students reading abilities.
“As we know, every student in Ohio learns in a different way, and removing the high stakes nature of the third grade ELA will allow teachers more time to provide interventions to students regarding literacy,” said legislation co-sponsor and former teacher, state Rep. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville.
Manning acknowledged that she supported the bill that created the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, but also that it “has not had the results that we’d hoped for.”
Senate Primary & Secondary Education Committee chair, state Sen. Andrew Brenner, R-Delaware, expressed concern that perhaps removing the retention piece wouldn’t solve reading proficiency issues either.
“Unless I see something that is going to help improve that situation, which is what the goal of (the third grade guarantee) was, I’m not sure if this is going to work or not,” Brenner said.
A national “snapshot” showed decreases in reading proficiency for Ohio’s fourth graders between 2019 and 2022, emphasizing the need for further investigation into how to bring reading levels up.
Fourth graders reading proficiency fell from 38% in 2019 to 33% this year, according to state data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics.
The state was certainly not alone in seeing reading decreases. Ohio was one of 30 states with scores trending downward in the last three years.
Manning said she’s not against retention of students if that’s what’s best for the student, but would rather see it at a younger level.
“I think by third grade, it is teaching children you’re a failure, and you’re not good at reading, and it turns them off to reading,” Manning told the committee.
Bill co-sponsor state Sen. Phil Robinson, D-Solon, said there are plenty of other ways to push the importance of reading and keep students engaged. Teacher professional development in reading education, funding for “instructional coaches” and earlier intervention could all be incorporated into the school day, he said. Outside of the bill before the committee currently, Robinson said he plans to move forward with measures on universal pre-school and all-day kindergarten as well.
“I believe if we left it at the local level to determine whether retention or another avenue is the way to go, I believe that would be more prudent,” Robinson said.
HB 497 passed the house in June of this year, leaving it to the Senate for full approval before the end of the General Assembly later this month.
Education officials and members of the state board of education have said the Third Grade Reading Guarantee creates a reliance on testing for proof of progress, and is unnecessary to improve student success.