Marietta board talks about new 3rd grade mandate

The Marietta City Schools Board of Education discussed changes brought about by the Third Grade Reading Guarantee and how it would affect day-to-day education in the district.

The Third Grade Reading Guarantee, a part of Ohio Substitute Senate Bill 121, is a program to assure that by third grade, all students are at the appropriate reading level to continue on throughout school. Beginning in 2013-2014, if a third grade student does not score at least a 392 on the Ohio Achievement Assessment in reading, they cannot be promoted to fourth grade.

Though the guarantee is mandated by the state, local districts are allowed to make their own provisions to provide opportunities for students to pass.

“This plan will help guide us to think through what’s best for our students,” said district curriculum director Ruth Kunze.

Kunze presented a situation timeline in which those students not passing either of two tests in third grade could choose to attend a summer school and take another test in summer. The school would also offer alternative testing in late October and December to give students more chances to pass.

Students that fail the test can still be promoted to the fourth grade in other subjects if they meet attendance and performance goals, and students can also be promoted in reading if their scores improve during the school year.

Though testing was implemented over a year ago, the fourth grade promotion rule takes effect going into next school year.

“This seems like it will be a difficult task, especially with four buildings,” said board Vice President Wendy Myers.

“That’s extra teachers we would need, and knowing our budget, that will not be easy.”

The law stipulates that a student retained in third grade must receive 90 minutes of intense reading instruction per day by a high-performing reading teacher.

Kunze said as of now, about 15 to 20 students have yet to pass the test this year, and any students retained in third grade for next school year would have to be put in an entire separate class.

“So they are already going to be behind in reading, and this will mean they will be even further behind because they still have to be tested in fourth grade, too,” Myers said.

Kunze noted that the 90 minutes of intense instruction is designed to make up for that loss.

“It tends to be the case that once a student is caught up to where they need to be, they will be fine for the rest,” said board member Karen Burton.

The Ohio Department of Education notes the existence of the guarantee in Florida, where schools saw a “dramatic” improvement in overall school performance in years following.

During the meeting, the board of education also:

Heard a presentation from Jim Couts of Jubilee Gardens in Marietta, which has implemented a program to take food waste from Marietta schools to use for compost that will go into community gardens that students and families can use

Approved the year’s financial report and general fund reports