Can Third-Grade Reading Proficiency Be “Guaranteed” in Ohio Public Schools?

According to the Ohio Department of Education, only 75% of third-graders in the state are proficient in reading, and 71% are proficient in math. The ability to read and do basic math is essential for success in school and in life, and has been linked to everything from incarceration rates (on the negative) to future job prospects and economic success (more positively).

Pete Solar
Pete Solar
Senior Account Executive

According to the Ohio Department of Education, only 75% of third-graders in the state are proficient in reading, and 71% are proficient in math. The ability to read and do basic math is essential for success in school and in life, and has been linked to everything from incarceration rates (on the negative) to future job prospects and economic success (more positively).

Legislators have been working since 2012 to improve literacy outcomes in the state, notably when the state legislature passed the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which required that third-graders pass a reading test in order to be promoted to fourth grade. The law was intended to ensure that all students are reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

However, the law came under scrutiny by some for being overly punitive and restrictive. Critics have argued that retention can have negative consequences for students, such as lower self-esteem and increased dropout rates. Some also argue that the law did not do enough to support students who are struggling with reading.

In response to these criticisms, the state legislature passed a bill in 2017 that allows school districts to offer alternative assessments to students who do not pass the reading test. The bill also provides funding for early intervention programs for students who are struggling with reading. The Third Grade Reading Guarantee is still in effect, but the changes made in 2017 have made it less punitive.

Now, a new bill working its way through the state legislature would eliminate retention under Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee and is almost identical to a previous bill that died in the last General Assembly. House Bill 117 was introduced recently by state Rep. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, and state Rep. Phil Robinson, D-Solon. Both of Ohio’s teacher union associations are reportedly in favor of HB 117 passing, so it will be interesting to watch these developments unfold, especially with so much at stake.

There have been promising signs of progress, however. About 1% of third-grade students did not meet the promotion threshold for the 2021-22 school year; 1.38% for the 2020-21 school year; 1% for the 2019-20 school year; 5% for the 2018-19 school year; 5% for the 2017-18 school year; 6.1% for the 2016-17 school year; and 6.6% for the 2015-16 school year.

This trend data appears to demonstrate that programs being put in place by legislators, educators and administrators are having some positive impact on the data, if you compare the past two years promotion rates with those of a handful of years ago.

What Has Been Done to Address Third-Grade Reading Proficiency in Ohio?

Committed to addressing this issue ongoing, educators and administrators in Ohio have implemented and are focusing on a number of strategies to improve third-grade literacy rates and numeracy, including:

  • Data-driven instruction: Schools are using data to identify students who are struggling and to target their instruction accordingly. This data may come from state tests, progress monitoring assessments, or teacher observations.
  • Differentiated instruction: Schools are providing differentiated instruction to meet the needs of all learners. This means that teachers are tailoring their instruction to the individual needs of each student.
  • Family engagement: Schools are working to engage families in their children’s education. This may include providing parent workshops, sending home newsletters, or holding parent-teacher conferences.
  • Creating a culture of literacy and numeracy in schools. Many public schools in Ohio are making sure that reading and math are valued and that students are given opportunities to practice these skills throughout the day.

By implementing these strategies, schools are working to ensure that all students have the skills they need to succeed in school and in life. But one area in particular that sticks out to me is this notion of “data-driven instruction.”

What Is Data-Driven Instruction?

In short, data-driven instruction involves gathering together a database of information about the students in each classroom, and using that information to improve the quality of teaching in the classroom. The good news is that access to data has exploded in recent years; the bad news is that, while educators are now data-rich, many struggle with being knowledge-poor.

Too often, all of the data educators need to optimize education outcomes live in disparate silos, making it nearly impossible to access, analyze and leverage for the betterment of students. However, when combined, integrated and overlaid, what often results is that invisible becomes…visible.

We frequently use the term “braiding data,” which is an apt representation of the benefit of such an approach. Individual strings of rope in the physical realm are made much more stronger when braided together than are when used separately and alone. Your data is no different. When intertwined, integrated and interdependent, your various systems become much more than a stack — they become a powerful, complete and cohesive system that honors and accounts for all drivers and outcomes of a school’s or district’s ultimate success.

The Munetrix Enterprise Edition for Schools is an example of just such braided technology that school districts in Ohio have at their disposal. The system is a comprehensive, all-in-one solution for school districts looking to create a district-wide culture of data literacy. The Academic Module provides a full suite of tools single tool that gives superintendents and educators the ability to accelerate academic outcomes and effectively educate and monitor the progress of “the whole student”—academically, emotionally, socially, demographically, and socio-economically—all with a single, easy-to-use interface.

Contact us to see how your school building or district can harness the power of data to improve literacy, numeracy and other educational outcomes.

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