Legislators to approve compromise 3rd grade reading bill

Jun 12, 2012

Statehouse correspondent Bill Cohen reports Ohio legislators are poised to give final approval on a compromise plan that would hold back third graders who haven't learned to read.

Governor John Kasich had proposed flunking kids who don't achieve a 'proficient' score on a state reading test.  State senators had proposed a lower threshold, so that fewer kids would be held back.  Now, a compromise has been reached.  It would require state education officials to set the initial passing threshold somewhere between those two levels.  the chair of the senate Education Committee, Peggy Lehner, tells statehouse correspondent Bill Cohen that threshold would then be raised over the years.

PL:  So what we will do is gradually ramp up the level that we're going to require of our students to be reading, while we put interventions in place and get teachers better prepared to teach reading.

BC: Is there money in this bill, for extra tutoring, for extra help, to try to make sure that kids do get over this threshold?

PL:  Actually, the money is coming from two sources.  We appropriated 13 million dollars from the lottery funds, and specifically to go to the third grade reading guarantee.  that will be money that will be awarded on a grant basis to districts.  In addition to that, with the granting of the waiver from the federal government, part of the waiver request was to allow us to determine better how we would spend 52 million dollars in Title One dollars.  And that was granted so we will have more flexibility with that money and instead of using it for a lot of private tutoring - which is what we have been doing and a lot of people questioned whether or not we've been doing it very effectively -- that money will be available  for tutoring in the primary grades.B

BC: Do you think that no matter where you set the standard, we will probably be holding back more kids in the third grade because they haven't mastered reading?

PL: Absolutely, I think there's no question that we're going to hold back a substantial number of children.  Hopefully that number will decrease.  In Florida, when they first did this, they saw a large bump the first year.  and then in subsequent years, people began to take this very seriously, and make sure the interventions were in place in first grade, kindergarten even, second grade, so that we were holding back fewer and fewer children.  Today in Florida, in spite of  a pretty high threshold, the number of children being held back annually in Florida today is not much higher than it was before they put the third grade reading guarantee in and the reading scores have gone way up.  so, that's the goal here.