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Gov. Kasich's 2012 Education Agenda Includes Third Grade Reading Requirement

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 12:37 PM

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, pictured reading at right, wants third graders to pass the third grade state reading test in order to advance to fourth grade.

Gov. John Kasich wants state legislators to require third graders to pass the third-grade state reading test in order to advance to fourth grade. That third-grade reading requirement is just one of the legislative changes he told the state Board of Education he plans to present to state lawmakers this week, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

The Dispatch says Kasich's other education priorities include a package of changes proposed by Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson plus "a new and tougher grading system for schools, curriculum guidelines for digital education, and reporting academic performance at technical schools."

That new grading system is the one proposed in Ohio's application for a waiver from some parts of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Not on the table this year: a new school-funding formula.

The idea behind the third-grade reading requirement is that it's important for students to read by third grade in order to master other subjects. Plus, the requirement is intended to focus schools' and parents' attention on third-grade reading.

It's a policy that comes into favor periodically, a researcher told the Harvard Education Letter last time around in 1999:

"It follows a seven- or eight-year cycle," says retention researcher Lorrie Shepard, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. "Right now, politicians are seeing retention as the remedy. Once they feel the negative side effects, they'll back off."

Ohio is one of several states, including Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Oklahoma and Tennessee, that recently approved or are introducing -- or reintroducing -- the idea now, according to the Wall Street Journal. Other states, including Florida and Texas, have already had similar requirements in place for about a decade.

But in many states, loopholes allow children who fail the reading test to be promoted anyway. In Indiana, students who fail the reading test can still technically advance to fourth grade; they just have to stay enrolled in third grade reading instruction and re-take the third grade reading test. In Tennessee, students can advance if they get tutoring over the summer. Texas recently scrapped its third-grade reading requirement, but had allowed students who failed the reading test to advance if school officials and their parents thought they could succeed in fourth grade. Most did.

Ohio attempted to put a reading requirement for fourth graders in place in 1997, under the Voinovich administration. The Fordham Institute says it was supposed to take effect in the 2001-02 school year, but was watered down in the face of opposition from "everyone from parents' groups to teacher unions."

 

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