If the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) had relied solely on the Ohio Achievement Assessment (OAA) to determine which third-grade students could continue on to the fourth grade for the 2012-2013 school year, only four Canal Winchester and 57 Groveport Madison students would have been held back because of their reading scores, according to school officials.
In June, legislators passed Senate Bill 316, which contains the "Third-Grade Reading Guarantee."
According to the ODE, the "guarantee" requires third-grade students to "retain a cut score" on an English language arts test in order to be promoted to the next grade. In other words, they must be able to read at grade level before going on to the next grade.
Last week, the State Board of Education set that cut score at 390 for the 2012-2013 school year and 392 for the 2013-14 school year.
A score of 400 on the current OAA is deemed "proficient," according to the ODE website.
While the exact testing measure for a student's reading success as part of S.B. 316 has not been determined by the State Board of Education, educators in both school districts said they are working to insure that students do not get left behind by the time the bill goes into full effect in the 2013-2014 school year.
The results of diagnostic reading tests for current third-grade students are required to be completed by Sept. 30 and those scores must be reported to the ODE.
"The key is that we want to identify students early on and get them the intervention they need so they can pass that test at the end of the third grade," ODE spokesman John Charlton said. "We want them to be proficient readers and that helps them have success as they move forward in their schooling."
As part of the guarantee, school districts must also adopt policies and procedures to assess the reading skills of each student in kindergarten through third grade and identify students who are reading below grade level.
The Groveport Madison Local School District has already started planning for this new legislation by implementing new tests for each grade level that will be administered three times a year along with the Ohio Achievement Assessment.
"Using this, along with the Ohio Achievement Assessment, we will measure the academic growth of our students," said Dorothea Copas, director of communications for Groveport schools. "The information we attain from these assessments will help us to implement interventions and create reading improvement plans, including sending notification to our parents."
The Canal Winchester Local School District is also continuing to monitor the progress of its students and will be developing additional plans as soon as more information is provided by the ODE.
"Our understanding is all of this information will come to us second semester of this year, as the law will be implemented for next year," Superintendent Kimberley Miller-Smith said.
Currently, Ohio Achievement Assessment tests are taken in the fall and spring of each year. While little is known about the new testing system and procedures, ODE representatives said students will have more than one opportunity to take the new test before they are required to be kept back.
Under the guarantee, retained students must also be provided with "intense remediation services" that require at least 90 minutes of reading daily, and they must be instructed by a "high-performing" teacher.
If these students excel in other academic areas, such as math, school districts must also provide them with instruction that is equivalent to their achievement level in that field. While the guarantee does not allow students to move on, it does allow them to be promoted in mid-year if they achieve the level of success mandated by the ODE.
Exactly how this promotion system will work, how student proficiencies will be addressed and what additional programs, teachers and classroom space will be needed in order to enact the Third-Grade Guarantee will be items that school systems across the state will be wrestling with this school year.