Legislature OKs education reforms
By Marc Kovac
State lawmakers have signed off on legislation increasing reading requirements for third-graders and providing increased intervention for younger students who are not keeping pace with their grade level.
Senate Bill 316 calls for increased testing requirements in coming years, eventually blocking students who are not proficient from moving on to fourth grade.
The bill also calls for reading assessments of students starting in kindergarten and increased identification, parental notification and targeted teaching intervention for students struggling with reading.
It doesn’t include dedicated funding for the program — Republican lawmakers expect that issue to be addressed next year as part of efforts to revamp the school funding formula.
SB 316 passed the House 56-35, with the Senate later concurring on changes, 23-8. Gov. John Kasich is expected to sign it into law.
The legislation, which covers both public and charter schools, includes a number of provisions to increase students’ exposure to career-path information and training, provide more employment opportunities for disabled youth, change how teachers are evaluated to allow ineffective instructors to be removed from the classroom and institute new standards for state-funded child-care centers.
SB 316 initially was offered by Kasich as part of his mid-biennium review, a process that spawned a budget and numerous other bills with extensive policy changes.
But lawmakers altered a couple of the governor’s key proposals. They removed language that would have required schools to be assigned a letter grade of A to F, replacing existing labels in an effort to provide a clearer picture of their performance to parents.
Lawmakers also changed the third-grade reading guarantee, though the governor supported the final wording.
Kasich wanted third-graders who failed to rank as proficient or higher to be blocked from moving into fourth grade. The Senate amended the prohibition to cover students scoring in the lowest assessment range.
Rep. Gerald Stebelton, a Republican from Lancaster, said the reading guarantee is important for the economic future of students and the state.
“Children who do not graduate from high school will find it difficult to be financially successful,” he said. “Children who do not read at expected grade levels in those early grade levels, particularly grade three, are much less likely to graduate high school....”
He added later, “We’ve heard from numerous sources that for children in elementary school, they learn to read in K-3, and they read to learn from fourth grade on.”
Many Democrats opposed the legislation, saying the state was pushing the reading guarantee without providing the funding necessary for intervention programs.
Rep. Ronald Gerberry, a Democrat from Austintown, voiced frustration about the amount of legislation pushed through the legislature by the governor’s office this year, leaving lawmakers without the time needed to deliberate the bills thoroughly.
He also questioned whether Ohioans support the education legislation.
“The only proponents of this bill were the governor’s office, the state superintendent, who basically is appointed by the governor, a graduate student from Ohio State and the president of an international dyslexia association,” Gerberry said. “That doesn’t sound bipartisan... The education community is not on board.”