The results of the state's third-grade reading assessment have been sent home with students in Bexley, and they carry more weight this year than in years past.
Beginning in the spring of 2014, third-grade students who do not reach a passing grade on the test will not move on to fourth grade under the state's new Third Grade Reading Guarantee.
It's Ohio's way of ensuring literacy at higher grade levels.
But Bexley Superintendent Michael Johnson is opposed to the new requirements, saying it just doesn't make sense. While there are exceptions for students for whom English is a second language and in special education programs, the new law has caused quite a stir amongst other teachers and administrators across Ohio.
Bexley's fall testing numbers were released by the state earlier this month, but Johnson has refused to reveal the number of students who did not pass, citing privacy issues. He said the numbers were so low, excluding ESL and special education students, that releasing the data could actually identify individual students who did not pass.
They will be receiving individual intervention, he said.
While Johnson said he agrees with the law in principle, in that it requires districts to provide intervention for students who do not make the literacy mark, he is against holding students back based on the results of one test.
"It just doesn't make sense," he said, citing emotional repercussions that he said legislators will never get to see. "Retention causes all kinds of other problems for the child, problems that aren't healthy."
He likened it to another developmental process -- losing baby teeth. Most children begin to lose their teeth sometime in first grade, he pointed out. But with the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, "it's like pulling the teeth of third-graders just because they haven't lost them yet."
He also cited research that indicates retention can have a negative impact on students as they get older and move through the educational system. Roderick and Nagaoka (2005) studied the effects of the Chicago Public Schools policy that bases promotion in grades three, six and eight on standardized test scores. Using comparison groups of students who just missed the promotion cutoff, these researchers found that third-graders struggled during the repeated year, had higher rates of special education placement, and two years later showed no advantage over those who had been promoted.
Retention can increase the likelihood that a student will drop out of school also, some studies noted. Students who drop out are five times more likely to have been retained than those who graduate, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Test results from the fall are being used to identify those students who need intervention. But those students will only be held back if they do not score 392 or higher on the spring administration of the test.