MOUNT VERNON — Parents of some area kindergarten, first-, second- and third-graders may soon be getting letters from their schools as a result of the recently passed Ohio Senate Bill 316.
The legislation involves what is called the Third Grade Reading Guarantee which mandates that third-grade pupils who are not reading at grade level [3.9] at the end of their third grade year, starting with the 2013-14 school year, must remain in third grade for another year, with additional reading instruction by a reading specialist.
Schools this year had to administer a reading assessment to all pupils in kindergarten through grade three to identify those who are reading below grade level. Most schools already check reading levels at the beginning of the school year and adjust instriuction accordingly. What’s new for 2012 is that students not reading on grade level must be provided intensive reading instruction and have a formal Reading Improvement and Monitoring Plan in place to address the reading deficit.
The school districts must also notify the parent or guardian that the child is reading below grade level, describe the intensified reading instruction and outline the specific reading improvement and monitoring plan.
“This is painful,” said Fredericktown Elementary School principal Emily Funston. “How do you tell a parent their 5-year-old [kindergartner] isn’t reading on grade level when he has only been in school for a month?
“We do not wish to place extra stress on parents, particularly at the beginning of the kindergarten year,” Funston continued. “We are all aware that children do not all develop in any area on the same schedule. Four school years of instruction are available to help children reach the goal of reading on grade level by the end of third grade, and we are confident that we can work with parents and students to reach that goal.”
Each school district may choose the reading assessments used to evaluate reading levels, but promotion to fourth grade will depend upon how well the student scores on the third-grade Ohio English Language Arts assessment.
The Reading Improvement and Monitoring Plan, called RIMP for short, must, among other items, identify the student’s specific reading skill level, describe the additional instructional services and support and include opportunities for parental involvement. That school/parent partnership is an important component of the reading guarantee. Fredericktown’s model RIMP, for example, includes a section prescribing a certain amount of time to be spent reading aloud at home each day.
Students entering third grade with a RIMP must be provided with a teacher specially trained in reading instruction, and each student who is retained in the third grade because of a reading deficit must be provided with a high performing teacher, intense reading remediation and at least 90 minutes of reading per day.
An informal survey of area elementary schools found that only a handful of pupils in each district would have been retained in third grade had the retention portion of HB 316 been in effect last year.
HB 316 is another unfunded mandate, said Danville school treasurer Mary Payne: The legislation does not provide school districts with any additional funds to pay for the additional required testing, instructional materials or extra reading specialists.
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