New law requires more reading help for third-graders

By Denise Dick


Mahoning Valley school districts are preparing for changes being implemented by the state’s third-grade reading guarantee, which takes full effect this coming school year.

The program identifies students in kindergarten through third grade who are behind in reading. If a student is not on track in reading by the end of third grade, he or she may be retained in reading. Those students may advance to fourth grade in the other subjects.

Doug Hiscox, deputy superintendent for academic affairs at Youngstown schools, said those students will receive intervention through the district’s literacy collaborative.

“It allows you to teach multiple levels of reading skills in the same class,” he said of the collaborative.

Advanced students who need a higher level of reading material can receive instruction in the same class as a student who’s reading on grade level.

Those requiring more intervention, though, will be in classrooms together, Hiscox said.

The district began using the literacy collaborative a couple of years ago, and the deputy superintendent believes it gave Youngstown an advantage in preparing for changes with the third- grade reading guarantee.

The district won’t know how many students will require reading intervention until the Ohio Achievement Assessments results are released in August.

Because of the literacy collaborative, elementary-school teachers already have the reading endorsement on their teaching certificates. The endorsement indicates additional course work focused on reading diagnostics completed by a teacher.

Under the law, students who have been retained or who are on a reading- improvement program must have a teacher with at least one year of experience. The teacher also must have the reading endorsement, a master’s degree in reading education, successful completion of a principles of reading instruction test or research-based reading program to fulfill the requirement.

Linda Ross, director of instruction at Boardman schools, said the district submitted its staffing plan to the Ohio Department of Education after a survey of teachers to determine by which method they planned to secure the reading credentials. That plan was approved.

“We’ve always followed the spirit of this law prior to the third-grade reading guarantee even being passed,” she said. “We assessed all students to see where they are in their learning.”

For those students who need it, reading intervention is provided in addition to regular reading instruction in the classroom, Ross said.

Vince Colaluca, Austintown superintendent, said his district always has had an intervention program.

“It’s bothersome that the Legislature acts like districts have done nothing for reading intervention,” he said.

The district uses data to determine which students require intervention in all grades. The district spends about $280,000 annually for reading and math intervention in kindergarten through 12th grade. That’s in addition to the cost of regular intervention training.

He said the biggest change for the district will be the requirement for the added teacher- credentials in reading.

“I feel we’ve done a great job of meeting the needs of students,” Colaluca said. “It’s something we’ve focused on in the seven years I’ve been in Austintown. We dig down to find out where they need intervention.”

Some students may read fluently but incur problems with comprehension. Others have fluency but need help understanding what they read, he said.

The district works to determine each student’s particular needs in reading and math and provides intervention accordingly, Colaluca said.

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