With only days until many open their doors, at least 342 public school districts and charter schools have notified the Ohio Department of Education that they are not prepared for Ohio’s new third-grade reading guarantee, which takes effect this year.
The new rule, which requires students to be proficient in reading before advancing to fourth grade, also requires that schools be staffed with teachers who have special reading certifications to work with children falling behind.
The list of schools saying they are not prepared includes 264 traditional school districts out of 614, and 78 charter schools out of more than 409. Many charter schools, however, would be exempt because they enroll only high school students.
The uniform concern among the districts is that there was not enough time in the one year since the requirement was passed by the legislature to adequately train teachers. Many had to return to college or attend special classes at their own expense.
In the Akron-Canton area, school districts on the list are Akron, Manchester, Medina, Norton, Barberton, Buckeye Local, Field, Marlington and Twinsburg. Also on the list are two Green school districts out of the state’s three districts with that name, but the Beacon Journal was unable to confirm if one or both Greens are in Summit and Wayne counties.
Among area charter schools are Garfield Academy in Canton, Imagine Akron Leadership and Summit Academy Akron Elementary. Online schools, which enroll children across the state, include Buckeye Online School for Success and Virtual Schoolhouse.
Akron looking for fixes
Akron estimates that 554 third-graders will need help this year. Only 12 of the district’s 77 teachers meet the new standards set by the legislature.
With 84 percent of her staff without credentials, Mary Outley-Kelly, director of curriculum and instruction, keeps a close eye on the Ohio Department of Education’s website for viable alternatives.
It could take years for Akron’s 55 teachers to earn a master’s or reading endorsement, and a $130 reading certification test is no guarantee, because they may not pass.
“We do not have sufficient staffing, so today I went online to see if there were any updates on avenues or pathways for teachers,” she said Friday.
That’s where she found out that the contingency plan had to be submitted. She said that in meetings with other districts: “Some of the schools said they didn’t know about the plan.”
For that reason, it is anticipated that the list of 342 will grow.
She’ll utilize one temporary fix that allows teachers with training in Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) to work with the children. She said 38 teachers and 58 elementary tutors have that training, but it’s good only until 2016. She’s also providing professional development and training for teachers to take the $130 test, which probably is the “quickest” and “least expensive way” to gain credentials.
State didn’t count cost
As part of the state mandate, all elementary students tested in September and identified as at-risk for failing the reading proficiency test when they reach the third grade will be placed on a Reading Intervention Monitoring Plan (RIMP) and given targeted instruction delivered by a teacher who holds either a K-12 reading endorsement, a master’s degree in reading, a passing score on a rigorous reading test, which rolls out this fall, or be rated “most effective” in reading instruction for the past two years.
When the legislature implemented the guarantee, there was no discussion of the cost.
A Beacon Journal analysis in January showed that 17,079 children were likely to fall well below proficiency. Keeping that many children in the third grade an additional year could add $123 million to overall K-12 costs. That didn’t include the testing and intervention required beginning in kindergarten to identify all children who are at risk of failing, which could include another 60,000 and push the total cost to $209.6 million.
In Norton, 12 of the district’s 13 third-grade teachers are not certified for the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. Sharon Herchik, director of curriculum and instruction, is turning to the University of Akron for help. There, 56 teachers have registered for a class that begins in September and runs through December.
The class blends classroom and online instruction to prepare teachers for the test, also available in the fall. Herchik notes there will be a gap between the start of school and the end of the UA class, leaving many teachers without credentials.
In Summit County, smaller school districts with fewer at-risk students are closest to meeting the state’s tall order of certifying every teacher who gives reading instruction to a challenged student.
“It’s way different for us than it is for those larger districts,” said Jim Robinson, director of curriculum and instruction for Manchester schools. Only one of Manchester’s four third-grade teachers is qualified, but that shouldn’t be a problem because only two students are expected to need help.
Districts said that when they hire, they are giving first preference to those with one of the reading certifications.
After 2016, all education students must graduate with the reading endorsement.
Meanwhile, curriculum directors are pushing their teachers to take the certification test this fall. It’s more feasible than a 16-credit-hour endorsement and far less expensive than 30 credit hours tied up in a master’s degree.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or email@example.com.