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Supporters say Ohio’s third grade reading guarantee is ‘more necessary now than ever’

Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau

An education policy research group is voicing its support for Ohio's current reading education laws as legislators prepare to consider a bill that would eliminate the state's required retention of third graders who do not pass their reading test.

The state’s third grade reading guarantee mandates that a child — who scores in the lowest category on their reading test — must be held back, with a plan for teachers to bring that student up to a higher reading level.

Chad Aldis, vice president for Ohio policy at the Fordham Institute, said the law — which was passed in 2012 — has shown signs of working.

“The extra assistance and extra time students get with having more opportunity to focus on reading is more necessary now than ever,” said Aldis, noting that there is already an increase in academic support for students coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aldis added that the third grade reading guarantee is a way to make sure high-risk students do not get left behind.

“The improvements mean most for the most struggling readers. Low-income students, students of color. And that's where the gaps are biggest in Ohio. And that's why we can't turn away at a time when our students need the most assistance and there are signs we've made progress,” said Aldis.

Scott DiMauro, president of the Ohio Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, is a proponent of the bill to eliminate the required retention.

He and several supports have argued that research shows retaining a child based on their reading performance can lead to other consequences down the road, such as higher high school dropout rates.

“A one-size-fits-all policy, like the mandatory third grade reading guarantee retention requirements, does not serve our students, has not been effective as a matter of public policy, and it’s something that needs to change,” said DiMauro.

But Aldis has argued that research on retention is usually based on old data and that Ohio should instead look at state’s with similar reading policies, like Florida and Mississippi. Aldis said Florida has a proven track record of success with its reading requirements.

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