In 2012, the Ohio legislature enacted the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. This law requires schools to identify reading deficits, create specialized reading improvement and monitoring plans, and provide intensive reading interventions. With some exceptions, the law requires third grade students to achieve a minimum "cut" score on state reading assessments to progress to fourth grade.
Q: My daughter has always struggled with reading. What does this law mean for her?
A: All third grade students must achieve a minimum score of 392 on the Grade Three English/Language Arts (ELA) Assessment in either the fall or spring of their third grade year to be advanced to fourth grade.
All Ohio public schools must administer an English-Language Arts diagnostic assessment test every September and identify students’ reading abilities. You will be notified in writing if your daughter fails to meet benchmark grade level scores. Once she is identified, the school (with support from you and the classroom teacher) must provide reading intervention and develop an individualized reading improvement and monitoring plan within 60 days. The school will assign your daughter to a school-identified “high-performance teacher” (one whose students perform very well). She may also receive small group instruction, reduced teacher-student ratios, more frequent progress monitoring, tutoring or mentoring, extended school days or summer reading programs.
Q: If my daughter does not pass the Ohio reading assessment, will she be held back in every subject?
A: No. If your daughter demonstrates proficiency in another subject, such as math, writing, science or social studies, she must receive appropriate grade level instruction in that area. If she is at grade level for all subjects except reading, she may advance to fourth grade in all subjects except reading. She will continue to receive intensive remediation services until she reads at grade level. If your daughter is retained, the district must offer and pay for reading intervention services from one or more approved outside tutoring providers. The school district also must establish a policy to promote your daughter to fourth grade whenever she demonstrates that she is reading at or above grade level.
Q: Are there any exceptions to this rule?
A: Yes. Students may advance to fourth grade without meeting the minimum score if they:
• have limited English proficiency and have had less than two years of instruction in a U.S. school;
• have received intensive remediation for two years and were previously retained in kindergarten through third grade;
• demonstrate reading competency on an alternative reading assessment approved by the Ohio Department of Education; or
• are in special education programs whose individualized education program (IEP) teams exempt them.
Q: My child receives special education services under an IEP. How does the Third Grade Reading Guarantee affect him?
A: The goal of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee is to address reading weaknesses in both general education and special education students. Like other special education students, your son must take the reading diagnostic test each fall in kindergarten through third grade, without accommodations whenever possible, unless his IEP teams excuse him and allow him to take an alternative assessment.
A reading assessment based on this new initiative is separate from a student’s IEP and creates separate intervention requirements. Like any student, if your son is not reading at grade level, he will receive immediate interventions, including a reading improvement and intervention plan. The plan should be separate from, but in line with, his current IEP. He will receive intensive reading interventions above and beyond whatever reading support is in his IEP. The school district should document the reading assessment results on his special education evaluations and his team should review his plan.
Your son can be kept in third grade if he does not achieve the minimum score on the Grade Three ELA Assessment. However, he may be exempt from retention if you and the school decide that his curriculum is significantly different from grade level or he requires testing accommodations beyond those allowed on Ohio assessment tests. If he is eligible for exemption, it must be noted in his plan.
This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). It was prepared by attorney Kerry M. Agins, a partner in the special education firm, Agins & Gilman LLC.