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A reading ‘guarantee’ is fundamental to success

Published: Sun, December 30, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

Running a school district is a complicated job, one made no easier by the financial pressures of the day, and often by external forces, such as poverty or parental indifference.

And almost every aspect of education is more difficult in the Youngstown City School District, which has struggled with fiscal and academic emergencies, as well as declining enrollment and competition from charter schools and vouchers. Often those charter schools siphon students and income from the city school district without providing a higher quality of education and with less state oversight.

Be all of that as it may, there are some basic things that every school must do if it has any chance of success, and chief among them is teaching its students to read.

Some years ago, a literacy program adopted the slogan “Reading is Fundamental,” with the accent on fun. It was clever, but more than that, it was literally true. Literacy is the foundation of any learning.

And so we are happy to see that the Youngs-town Board of Education has adopted a policy that will help facilitate a “third grade reading guarantee,” in keeping with a law signed by Gov. John Kasich in July.

A bad precedent

This is not the first time such a reading guarantee has been tried in Ohio. Former Gov. Bob Taft promoted a requirement that all fourth-grade students be able to pass the reading portion of the Ohio Proficiency Test at the beginning of the 2001-2002 school year. If not, they could not advance to the next grade level. This was stated well in advance, so that every school board, principal and teacher knew that the kindergarten student of 1997 was going to have to be able to read at a fourth grade level by 2001.

And yet, when the deadline came, so many thousands of students had been allowed to fall behind that the standard was abandoned.

Youngstown’s plan calls for tests at the beginning of each year, parental notification and remedial action when a student is not on track to meet the standard by third grade.

Every teacher and every student knows that “cramming” for a test doesn’t work. Learning is a gradual and constant process, and it involves the teacher, student and parents to be successful. Principals are responsible for monitoring the success of teachers, and if they don’t the superintendent must hold them to account.

About 20 years ago, a grand plan was announced in Youngstown that called for 100 percent of Youngstown’s students to graduate by 2000. This paper was criticized for stating editorially that goal was unrealistic, but we believed it was, and history has shown it was.

This goal, however — that every primary student be taught to read — is doable because it is focused, and it is designed to identify deficiencies and take early corrective action.

There are few guarantees in life, but a guarantee that a child who comes to school each day will be taught to read should be one of them.


1TB(1167 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

So what happens if they dont?

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2Education_Voter(1157 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Are the real editorial writers on Christmas vacation?
Lately these opinions seem written by an intern with little experience.
I love this:
"Principals are responsible for monitoring the success of teachers, and if they don’t the superintendent must hold them to account."
This has been the punchline of many a cartoon, but here it is written seriously. The writer actually seems to believe that there are no individual differences among children that lead to poor performance on reading tests.
There have always been a small percentage of children that don't read well, and there is no reason to believe that this human condition will change. A reading test does not consist of simply reading sentences aloud, but of determining what is more and less important in the passage, making inferences about implications and drawing logical conclusions.
There are some folks who are incapable of doing this at 8 years of age, and some at any age. So I am not going to hold my breath until EVERY single 8 year old passes this test.
And at any rate of passage, there was a day when passing a test was a matter of personal responsibility, not the fault of the instructor. That day was from the time of Socrates until now.
It is a set-up to create a false crisis for politicians.

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3kurtw(1759 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

The real problem with public education in the U.S. is monopoly control- i.e. The Teachers Union. Parents- who should be entitled to oversee the education of their offspring- are left out of the loop- even though they pay for what is being done to their children without their consent.

The only sensible approach is some sort of voucher program- which allows individual choice. Sending kids into a school system dominated by union "apparatchiks" is a recipe for failure.

Why are we 25th or 30th among industrialized societies in Math and Science even though we spend the most per capita? The countries leading the pack- Finland, Scandinavia, etc. do not, as far as I know, have teachers unions. They have Civil Servants committed to educating young people. There's the difference.

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4TB(1167 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

You don't know much then. Scandinavia has highly unionized workforces.

Whenever there is a guarantee regarding humanity, it is most likely destined for failure. As pointed out above, holding every individual accountable to an arbitrary standard is usually a recipe for failure.

When the state experiences 0% unemployment, 0% crime, etc., then I'll sign on for societal guarantees.

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5Education_Voter(1157 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Kurt, you don't know much about public education. In the United States, public schools vary from place to place because they are a collection of people from that local town, village, or neighborhood.
In many of our states, not many teachers belong to the union. By the way, those are the poorly performing states, mostly in the south.
Ohio has one of the best performing school systems in the world. Probably the best school system in the world is that of Massachusetts, which has as many students as Finland.

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