Rocky Fork Enterprise

Third Grade Reading Guarantee

G-J curriculum director: District ready to meet state-mandated challenge


When it comes to meeting new state requirements, the district will be ready to meet the challenge to help every third-grader advance to fourth grade, Gahanna-Jefferson curriculum director Beth Spieth said.

Spieth recently addressed the school board concerning what's called the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. Senate Bill 316, which Gov. John Kasich signed into law in June, requires third-grade students to be held back if they can't read at or above grade level.

Spieth said the district already is doing many of the requirements listed in S.B. 316.

She said all school districts must identify the diagnostic tool it would use for the required K-3 English Language Arts (ELA) assessments that must be administered by Sept. 30.

"The biggest demand on us is in getting the assessments done by the end of September," Spieth said.

Gahanna-Jefferson already uses a multitude of reading assessment tools, but for this purpose, it is the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills Test. Many parents and principals know it by the acronym DIBELS.

Spieth said the Ohio Department of Education already has approved the district's continued use of DIBELS for this purpose.

In addition, she said, the district will continue to use numerous methods to assess students, providing them with numerous opportuni- ties to demonstrate their full range over the course of the year, not just at a single point of time.

"There will be intervention plans for those who need help within 60 days," Spieth said.

She said G-J does not traditionally retain a third-grade student that might be struggling in a single subject area.

"We work with the parent and, if necessary, provide tutoring, individual instruction or similar intervention methods to bring the student up to grade-level," Spieth said. "If progress is being made but still not at reading level, we may place them in the third- fourth-grade split the following year to complete the task of bringing them up to reading level."

Beginning with the 2013-14 school year, per state requirement, districts must retain the student if he or she isn't reading at the third-grade level.

In addition to the district scheduling parent-teacher conferences or similar interventions, parents must be notified in writing.

Superintendent Francis Scruci said the district is ready and will continue to be ready at each benchmark.

"Much of what is required is already in place in the GJPS," he said. "With Lion Pride, we have had a long history of meeting and exceeding expectations: The (Third Grade) Reading Guarantee and the National Core Standard initiatives will be no different."

Matt Cygnor, human-resources director, and Spieth are drafting, reviewing and aligning current practices and policies to present to the school board later this fall or early next year.

Cygnor said all 529 Gahanna-Jefferson teachers have a minimum of a bachelor's degree and are licensed through the ODE, so they have the required licensing with the reading endorsement that the new law references.

Despite being a statewide initiative, public-informa- tion officer Michael Straughter said, a G-J classroom teacher, with the support of colleagues and the principal, will continue to develop lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms.

Similarly, he said, the board, superintendent and treasurer will continue to make best-practice decisions about the overall curriculum and set the parameters of how the district is to operate.