DeWine touts ‘science of reading’ in visit to Youngstown school

Staff photo / R. Michael Semple ... Gov. Mike DeWine, right, visited Paul C. Bunn Elementary School in Youngstown on Thursday to discuss his phonics-based “science of reading” program that he said is vital to the future of the state. Bunn has been using the program for more than four years. Kindergarten teacher Jessie Hall, left, works on words with students Jensiel Carmona-Ayala, Olga Posada, Janova Bailey, Jordy Vasquez and Keylor Pineda. The program aims to improve reading skills of elementary school students.

YOUNGSTOWN — Gov. Mike DeWine touted his phonics-based “science of reading” program that he said is vital to the future of the state.

DeWine, a Republican, discussed the policy change he is seeking during a Thursday visit to Paul C. Bunn Elementary School, where teachers have been using the science of reading for more than four years. DeWine visited two classrooms — one pre-kindergarten and the other kindergarten — to see the program as it is used at the Youngstown school.

Science of reading is needed because about 40 percent of the state’s third- graders don’t read at a third-grade level, DeWine said.

“We have to change that,” he said. “This state cannot move forward unless everybody has the key to get in the door. By that, I mean reading is the key to

be able to live up to your dream and do whatever you want. When we have 40 percent of the kids in third grade not being able to do it, that’s a problem.”

The Ohio Education Association and Ohio Federation of Teachers support DeWine’s focus on literacy, but in testimony last month in front of an Ohio House subcommittee the presidents of both objected to making science of reading a mandate. The science of reading focuses on phonics and breaking down words into individual parts.

DeWine said Thursday: “When people object to a mandate they many times say, ‘Well, you’re not paying for it. We have to figure out how to come up with the money.’ I would understand that. We’re going to give them their money to do it. There’s been a discussion for many years about the best way to teach kids how to read. As a former prosecutor, I would just say the jury has returned, the jury has a verdict. It’s clear. This is the best way to do it.”

DeWine’s proposal includes $162 million over the next two years to get the science of reading into every Ohio public school.

That includes $64 million to pay for science of reading curriculum, $43 million annually for two years to provide instruction for teachers and $12 million for 100 literacy coaches in schools with the lowest literacy proficiency rates.

A House substitute bill would drop the $64 million for curriculum down to $44 million.

“The budget we presented will do the job,” DeWine said. “We don’t want to see any cuts in this. That is essential. We can disagree with the House or Senate about different things. But getting our kids to read when we now know what it takes to get them to read and we now know what works and we now know the best way to do this. There’s nothing more important than getting these kids to read.”

DeWine pointed to Mississippi adopting the science of reading four years ago and going from the 49th-ranked state in the nation in fourth-grade reading skills in 2013 to 22nd last year.

“We want everybody to do it (in Ohio) because we don’t want a kid left behind,” DeWine said.

He added: “It’s literally the best way to teach all kids.”

Aaron Bouie, executive director of the Youngstown school district’s elementary teaching and learning, said science of reading has “worked with our scholars. It has really worked.”

The Youngstown school district has some of the worst test scores in the state.

DeWine said: “Look, this takes a while to fully implement.”

Test scores won’t “dramatically change until you start seeing those kids who have started with this way hit third grade and fourth grade,” he said.

The program will take another three to five years to have an impact, Bouie said.

“This isn’t a real quick turnaround,” he said. “This is a long, full haul because we’re trying to change the minds and hearts.”



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