SB21 - Brings changes to 3rd grade reading law

Earlier this week, the Ohio Senate passed SB21 (30-1), a bill that would alter requirements of the 3rd grade reading guarantee. The changes were a positive step, and will make it easier for schools and educators to meet the standard, that previously were nearly impossible to meet.

According to a Gongwer report

The bill would eliminate language that required teachers to "be actively engaged in the reading instruction of students for the previous three years," which was seen as a roadblock to hiring new teachers or other qualified educators and was considered a very difficult or nearly impossible standard to meet.

"Given the importance of the third-grade reading guarantee to the future of our children, we listened very carefully" to the suggestions of principals and superintendents, sponsoring Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) said.

The bill also includes

  • Closing the loophole whereby a child could avoid being held back by skipping the test.
  • Exempts students who have significant cognitive disabilities
  • Removes "credential" and replaces it with "completion of a program" which would cover programs, such as Orton-Gillingham, that do not produce a credential upon completion.
  • Replaces a value-added score requirement when the teacher is an effective reading instructor, as determined by criteria established by ODE.
  • Allows schools the authority to get a waiver by resolution for their action plan required when the district is unable to hire sufficient teachers with the approved credentials.

The lone no vote was Sen. Joe Schiavoni who said he voted against the bill because, although he supports the policy, the lack of funding is a problem.

"We need to put the $130 million, the $100 million-dollar tag on this to help schools pay for this," he said.

Sen. Gardner, who will chair the subcommittee that will hear the K-12 portion of the budget bill, said he expects to see bicameral, bipartisan support to provide more funding to support the goals of the TGRG in that legislation.

Let's hope so. It's not often we get education bills moving in the right direction. This bill still needs to pass the House.

You can read the full text of the bill, here. For those who would prefer a more plain english explanation, here's LSC's analysis.

SB21 - 3rd Grade Reading Guarantee Changes by

Mixed messages from legislature

Greg Mild at Plunderbund delves into the 3rd grade reading guarantee and discovers that it's provisions could potentially cost teachers $17,000 out of their own pocket.

The same Ohio legislators who sought to reduce teacher compensation through Senate Bill 5 last year and who have cut public school funding (including to the Ohio Department of Education), included a requirement in the 3rd Grade Guarantee that will cost individual teachers over $17,000 each — most likely an out-of-pocket expense.
Absent the revisions (where was ODE when this law was being passed in the first place?), all teachers working with students who fall under this law’s provisions will be required to have a reading endorsement as part of their teaching license.

Greg goes on to detail the costs.

But, let's back away from the details for a moment to look at the underlying policy itself. If the legislature truly believes that licensure is not one of the best ways to measure a teachers effectiveness, why then are they relying upon a license in the case of the 3rd grade reading guarantee?

Why are they not instead mandating that a principal assigns the most highly rated teacher to the task of providing 3rd grade reading remediation, rather than some potential slacker with a license?

Talk about mixed messages. Why would any teacher bother to go to the time and expense of getting this license, when there is clear policy that it bares no relationship to pay in the eyes on the legislature?

3rd grade retention plan could cost $500 million

One of the signature policy initiatives in the Kasich MBR is the proposed change in the 3rd grade reading guarantee.

Specifically, according to LSC analysis, the bill (SB316) makes several changes to the third grade reading guarantee beginning with the 2012-2013 school year. Under current law, the third grade reading guarantee requires school districts and community schools to retain in third grade a student who scores in the "limited" range on the third grade English language arts assessment, unless the student's principal and reading teacher agree that the student is academically prepared for fourth grade or the student will receive intervention services in fourth grade. The bill changes the "cut" score and applies the guarantee to all students who do not receive at least a "proficient" (or passing) score on the assessment. The "limited" score, which currently triggers the guarantee, is the lowest of five scoring ranges and two levels below "proficient."

In short, more students will be held back, and less flexibility will be granted to educators in determining if a student who misses the proficient level can proceed to the fourth grade.

None of this expansion is funded, so let's take a look at what this policy might additionally cost cash strapped schools.

In October 2011, a total of 126,569 3rd grade Ohio public school students participated in the Reading Achievement Test. Here are the aggregated results, according to ODE statistics.

Level Number Percent
Advanced 22,987 18.2%
Accelerated 23,619 18.7%
Proficient 28,038 22.2%
Basic 23,574 18.6%
Limited 28,351 22.4%

In recent years the number of students scoring proficient or higher has varied from a high of 67.5% to a low of 53.3%. Remember, according to the new proposal, any student scoring below proficient is likely to be held back and made to repeat 3rd grade.

Again, according to ODE statistics, the median cost per pupil in Ohio per year in 2011 was $9,567.89, with an average of $9,961.57.

Under the new rules, the 51,925 students who failed to reach the minimum proficiency standard would have been at risk of being held back. At a median cost of $9,961 per student, districts could be on the hook for a total of $517,224,925 to fund that many students repeating 3rd grade.

To put that into some perspective, the crisis in Cleveland public schools is caused by a budget shortfall of $65 million. This unfunded manade could pay for that shortfall 8 times over.

This week in education cuts

UPDATED: SB5 Help Wanted

We Are Ohio has so many SB5 petition books coming in, it's proving difficult to keep up. They are asking for help to log signatures so they can keep track.

The campaign can use help anytime between 9:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., seven days a week until June 30th. The process occurs at SEIU 1199 at 1395 Dublin Rd in Columbus.

Please contact Brendan Kelley at bkelley@weareohio.com to let him know if you can help.