Bexley City Schools' top administrator is voicing some concern over a lack of information coming out the Ohio Department of Education in connection with new directives aimed at improving student literacy.

Bexley City Schools' top administrator is voicing some concern over a lack of information coming out the Ohio Department of Education in connection with new directives aimed at improving student literacy.

Bexley Superintendent Michael Johnson aired those concerns earlier this month at the district's regular monthly board meeting. He indicated he has received little to no guidance from the ODE regarding the newly adopted "third-grade reading guarantee" despite calls to the state -- something he finds frustrating.

"This is disconcerting because the law is far-reaching for school districts," Johnson said.

The new requirement is part of House Bill 316, which mandates that students in third grade repeat the school year if they don't do well enough on state tests despite two years of reading intervention.

According to last year's state report card, 21 percent of third-graders across Ohio did not pass the reading portion of the state's annual achievement test.

In Bexley, 91.3 percent of third-graders in Bexley passed the reading portion of the state test, a considerably better passage rate than the state.

But regardless of the number, Johnson knows there are still 8.7 percent of his third-graders who are not passing the test.

Under the new state law, all students in kindergarten through third grade must be evaluated by Sept. 30, "which is pretty fast," said Johnson.

The district is waiting to hear whether the testing methods currently used by teachers to assess student literacy -- DIBELS and Fountas and Pinnell Benchmarking System -- are acceptable measures under new law.

Also under HB 316, students not reading at an acceptable level must receive intervention in order to help them on their way. Johnson said Bexley is already doing that.

"We do have an intervention assistance team at every school. For every student who is performing below proficient level, we already have a systemic, individualized plan," Johnson told board members last week.

He questioned what he called an "arbitrary cut-off in third grade" and openly wondered why Bexley is being required to evaluate all of its students when more than 90 percent are already performing at accelerated or advanced levels.

"Once we find out more from the state, we will structure a program to address the new law," he said.

Johnson also appeared to have little information about the district's expected state report card rating and about the state's conversion to a new letter-grade system with new calculations meant to better reflect achievement in subgroups.

But according to ODE spokesman John Charlton, this year's calculations and grading system will remain intact -- with the exception of a new graduation-rate calculation.

Changes to the overall state report card calculation, which include the transition to letter grades, are at least a year out, he said.

Under the newly proposed system, most of the districts in central Ohio that received "excellent" or "excellent with distinction" ratings last year would be given a B letter grade, according to Ohio Department of Education projections.

As to Bexley's upcoming rating, Johnson said, "I don't even want to venture a guess."

Charlton said official report cards are expected out in the last week of August.