Tuesday, February 12, 2013

TGRG: Parents should be angry

If you are the parent of a student in grades K-3 in Ohio and are not angry, you should be.  Ohio's new Third Grade Guarantee legislation is effective this year and is based on the research which suggests that students who are not reading at grade level before fourth grade are more likely to drop out.  What they don't tell you is that there is also ample evidence to suggest that students who are retained are more likely to drop out, as well.  

The devil is in the details of this law.  Nobody objects to providing interventions to students who are below level in reading.  In fact, most schools districts have been doing that for years, but with limited budgets and recent cuts, direct services like this to students are not what they could be.  This law doesn't help that a bit, because it provides no funding for the provision of mandated services.  There was a relatively small ($13 million) competitive grant awarded to help SOME districts, but certainly not all.  

Besides mandating which children will be retained, this legislation has added onerous requirements for teachers who teach reading in grade 3.  Teachers will be forced to take a Praxis exam  at personal expense OR get a master's degree in reading at personal expense OR obtain a reading endorsement at personal expense.  See a pattern?  Not only that, but if your child is on a Reading Improvement and Monitoring Plan (RIMP), then your child must be assigned to a teacher who meets ever-changing qualifications.  Schools are expected to publish a staffing plan for how we will meet these qualifications, but it isn't entirely clear exactly what the requirements are yet.  

Another concern parents have expressed is the added stress on students in grades two and three.  Eight-year old children should not have to worry about being failures based on an assessment.  Parents of kindergartners are dismayed when one of the first communications coming to them from their school is that little Johnny may flunk third grade if he doesn't get on the ball because a developmentally inappropriate assessment has labeled him "off track."  If you question the appropriateness of the assessments, click here to see what the kindergarten reading diagnostic administered within the first month of school looks like. 

This is where you should start becoming a bit irate.  The General Assembly has taken authority over your child's education.  Whether or not your child repeats third grade and to which teacher your child is assigned has now been relegated to politicians.  This law will not help your child.  Additional resources, intervention materials, literacy specialists, engaging literature would enable schools to help all children learn to read, but adding additional stress and requirements to children and teachers is no answer.

The bottom line is that the General Assembly has far overstepped its bounds with this law.  The ones deciding what child should be retained should be YOU and the educators who work with your child every day.  Not the legislators in Columbus.

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