The Licking Heights school district will adopt the state of Ohio's new Third-Grade Reading Guarantee, even though Licking Heights Superintendent Philip Wagner said he disagrees with aspects of the policy.
"Personally, I'm not in favor of the way the law is written," Wagner said. "Retention is not an intervention."
The policy would hold back third-grade students not reading up to grade level. Despite any misgivings Wagner may have about it, he said the district is "doing an awful lot" to prepare students for the policy requirements, including student assessments.
According to a school district release, the Third-Grade Reading Guarantee requires all public school districts and community schools to administer a reading diagnostic assessment to all students in grades kindergarten through third by Sept. 30 each year, beginning this school year.
Wagner said assessments students took in September identified them as "on track" or "not on track."
"On track" identifies any student who is reading at grade level, based on previous end-of-year standards, by Sept. 30.
According to the release, for each student reading below grade level, his or her school must provide notice to the student's parent or guardian of the deficiency in reading, a description of the current services being provided, the future services to be provided, and a notice that the student will be retained if he or she does not attain the designated score on the third grade English language arts assessment. A provision of the law states that unless the student attains the appropriate level of reading competency by the end of grade three the student will be retained.
Wagner said intervention specialists will assist underperforming students. Those students will receive help in small reading groups, and other tutoring services will be available.
Wagner said not every student learns in the same way and he doesn't necessarily agree that exposing the student to the same material for another year will solve the problem.
"I appreciate the state's focus on reading, but I have concerns with retention," Wagner said. "Research supports that."
He said he would prefer to approach each underperforming student individually and determine what it is about the curriculum that's "not closing the learning gap" for that student.
Wagner said parents can do a lot to prepare their children for the Third-Grade Reading Guarantee.
"They need to focus on a literature-rich environment in the home," he said.
He said it is important for parents to read with their children at home as much as possible and, particularly with really young children, simply speak to them often so they can begin to comprehend the meaning of words and sounds.
"This is really important through 8 or 9 years of age," Wagner said.