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Some third-graders won’t be promoted

Clark, Champaign schools handle reading guarantee differently this year.Next year, students who don’t pass portion of state test cannot move to fourth grade.

Third-grade students who do not pass the reading portion of the Ohio Achievement Assessment this year could be retained next school year.

This is the first year that the Third Grade Reading Guarantee — passed into state law in 2012 — comes into play for Ohio families, including potentially hundreds of local parents.

“The rules are about to change in the state of Ohio,” said David Estrop, superintendent of Springfield City School District. “Other than the Ohio Graduation Test, which is a high-stakes test for the kids … for the first time, we are going to a system where we will use a test’s results to determine if you are promoted or retained.”

The requirements of the Third Grade Guarantee could cost as much as $14 million for Clark and Champaign County school districts, according to a Springfield News-Sun analysis done in February.

About 330 Clark and Champaign County students did not meet this year’s proficiency score in 2010-11, according to the Ohio Department of Education.

Third-grade reading has been identified by researchers as a critical point in a child’s education and linked to higher rates of dropping out of high school, according to the Ann E. Casey Foundation, a non-profit educational organization dedicated to increasing success for disadvantaged youths. Dropping out of high school means a higher rate of incarceration and unemployment and lower income.

The guarantee, an initiative from Republican Gov. John Kasich, requires schools to hold back third-grade students who are not scoring proficient or higher on the reading portion of the state tests. There are some exemptions for students with disabilities or who are learning the English language.

For this year’s test results, schools have three options for students who fail the test, which is administered twice a year: retain the student, promote the student to fourth grade with interventions to improve reading or have the student’s principal and teacher sign off that the student is ready for fourth grade, despite the test score.

Starting in the 2013-14 school year, students who do not pass the test and do not qualify for an exemption must be held back in the third grade. The law does not give parents the right to refuse the requirements of the Third Grade Guarantee.

Lisa Allen’s son, Trey, a third-grader at Horace Mann Elementary in Springfield, passed the reading portion of the test in October this year, but she was concerned about how he would perform and the ramifications. Allen said she checks homework with her son, and they read together every night, but they didn’t do anything out of the ordinary in preparation for the test.

“This whole test is based around reading and not everything that they’ve learned all year in every subject,” said Allen. “I don’t agree with them just holding him back because of one grade out of five or six.”

Springfield City School District plans to start retaining kids this year, said Estrop. About 150 Springfield students did not meet the proficiency cut-off in 2010-11.

“Our concern is the longer we continue to promote under the old system, where we were prohibited — prohibited — from using the test (to make retention decisions), would just continue to reinforce those expectations,” he said. “That’s why we see the need to do this now so that people understand that public policy in the state of Ohio … has been turned upside down.”

Triad plans to do the same but has only a couple kids who are at risk of not passing, according to Superintendent Craig Meredith.

Northwestern and Greenon both intend to promote students with intensive interventions this year.

“There’s a menu of strategies that we want to have the teacher to have the options to use,” said Greenon Superintendent Dan Bennett.

Some districts, including Urbana, Clark-Shawnee, Southeastern and West Liberty-Salem schools, will use all three strategies, making decisions on a student-by-student basis.

“We would take a look at their whole body of work,” said David Shea, Southeastern superintendent. “It’d probably come down to a principal decision.”

The Ohio Achievement Assessment will be administered April 22 through May 10.

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