Reading Guarantee Bill Signed into Ohio Law

Ohio Governor John Kasich has signed into law a bill that required some third graders be held back if they cannot read at grade level. The controversial reading guarantee was the major discussion point in Senate Bill 316 which covered multiple facets of education and workforce development. Kasich stressed that the measure was not intended to be punitive but was necessary to help the children affected:

"If you can't read you might as well forget it," Kasich said at a bank operations center in Cincinnati where he was joined by state lawmakers for the ceremony. "Kids who make their way through social promotion beyond the third grade, when they get up to the 8th, 9th, 10th grade. . . they get lapped, the material becomes too difficult."

The reading guarantee was built on the Annie E. Casey Foundation report that concluded children cannot read at grade level on completion of the third grade were four times as likely to drop out before 12th grade as children who could read properly.

Kasich had initially pressed for a more rigorous passing mark of ‘proficient' for third graders who wanted to progress to fourth grade, however this was rejected in the Senate as being unfair and overly onerous. The bill's sponsor, Senator Peggy Lehner, then opted for the lower threshold, prompting a brief spat with the unhappy Kasich before fences were mended and he thanked her Monday for her work on the bill.

"Education in this country is at a crisis. There are a whole lot of reasons for why we've arrived at where we are," Lehner said. "The governor referred to the future of blended learning. And part of our problem is we are in transition, we are changing from one way of learning to a whole new way of learning, and I think some people have been sort of left behind in that. This legislation is the beginning of major education reform in the state of Ohio."

There is a provision in SB 316 that incorporates more technology into the classroom and it is clear that both Lehner and Kasich envision the classroom and teaching role to be something that is metamorphosing into a new form:

"We're going to get to the point where online learning is going to be the order of the day," Kasich said. "I think we will ultimately get to the point where teachers' roles will change to the point where ultimately they will be coaches rather than be teachers because the online curriculum, the online capability is going to excite kids in a way in which they understand."

The new law will also change the way the process for evaluating teacher performance, with the General Assembly required to produce a new school report card system by the end of next March. The workforce development aspects of SB 316 will allow people on welfare to continue collecting payments while receiving job training.

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