Reynoldsburg City Schools' principals are letting parents know that new state reading assessments began this year for students in kindergarten through third grade, although retaining third-graders for not passing new benchmark reading scores will not begin until the 2013-14 school year.
Ohio's third-graders must pass new state reading requirements by next school year; otherwise, they will not be promoted to fourth grade, despite their achievements in other subjects, according to the third-grade guarantee that became law when Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed Senate Bill 316 this past summer.
French Run Elementary School Principal Chris Hardy sent a letter home to parents about the third-grade guarantee, using information from the Ohio Department of Education.
"Parents should know this information now, because they must be informed early and often about their child's education and their future in education," he said. "Parents are an extremely important partner in education."
Hardy said school districts were required to conduct reading assessments on all students in kindergarten through third grade by Sept. 30.
The result of those assessments is that teachers must identify students as "on track," meaning their performance meets expectations for entering a current grade level, or "not on track," meaning their performance is currently below expectations for the grade level.
"School districts are required to notify parents of students identified as not on track with a letter following the assessments," he wrote to parents. "A plan for student intervention and monitoring growth and progress must also be completed and updated throughout the school year.
"Beginning next year, third-graders who do not reach the state-determined success mark on the Ohio Achievement Tests will not be able to be promoted to fourth grade," he wrote.
Hardy said reading diagnostic assessments are not new.
"Our classroom teachers already complete individualized student assessments and use the results of those assessments to plan for teaching and intervention to meet each child's unique needs," he wrote in the letter. "Our school has always provided a variety of intervention supports in reading. We believe that addressing reading concerns early is the best path to overall student success."
He told parents that students identified as not on track would receive additional classroom reading instruction and intervention.
It may worry parents to receive such a letter and learn that their child is not on track after only being in a new grade level for a few days or weeks, Hardy said, but he cautioned parents that this assessment doesn't mean a child won't be successful in school.
Hardy said one thing parents need to take away from the third-grade guarantee is that "reading is essential for our kids."
"As we look to prepare our students for college and jobs, reading is at the core of almost everything," he said. "Spending time reading, teaching them to become fluent and fostering a love of reading with our kids at a very early age is vital."
State officials have said $13 million has been set aside to create grants to help districts with any additional expenses related to intervention for the third-grade reading guarantee.
ODE officials said parents who receive information that their student is not "on track" for reading at grade level must receive from the school district a description of current services being provided to the student, information on proposed supplemental instruction and a notice that if the student does not attain the benchmark reading competency score by the end of third grade, he or she will be retained and not promoted to fourth grade.