The Ohio Senate Education Committee is considering the proposal for a third-grade reading guarantee included in Gov. John Kasich’s midterm budget review. The measure would hold back in the third grade students who are not proficient readers at grade level after two or more years in a reading intervention program. It requires also that schools provide intensive remediation until the students meet the proficiency standard.
Reading is such a foundational skill, crucial to success across all school disciplines, that it is hard to quarrel with the goal to ensure children read well before they reach the fourth grade. Other states striving to improve achievement and graduation rates have set similar goals. The focus on early proficiency thus is unassailable. In fact, Ohio already has a fourth-grade reading guarantee.
The new proposal raises the question whether Kasich and state lawmakers are any more committed to provide schools the resources for reading intervention programs that will make a third-grade guarantee a better success than the earlier one. As it is, school districts are struggling to make up for nearly $2 billion in budget cuts, and the governor refuses to route any new funds to schools.
Research makes clear the link between success in the higher grades and participation in high quality early education, in preschool, kindergarten and the early grades. Reading proficiency in third grade is a cumulative result, achieved through early instruction. A reading mandate requires its own guarantee from the state of consistent support.