COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – The Ohio State Board of Education is calling on the Ohio General Assembly to repeal a law that requires schools to hold third graders who do not meet reading benchmarks.

Ohio Revised Code Section 3313.608 prohibits, with limited exceptions, promoting to
fourth grade any student who does not meet a minimum score on the third-grade English
language arts assessment. The legislation is part of the “third-grade reading guarantee.”

Educators say the law is socially and educationally ineffective, saying that between 2013 and 2019, an average of only 15% of retained third graders ultimately attained proficiency on their third-grade English Language Arts retakes. Even those who did score better, proficiency continued to decrease in subsequent grades, the department said.

Campbell Local Schools fourth grade teacher Karen Carney, who has taught third and fourth grade and was a literacy coach, said the data should not be used to punish but prepare a student and create informed instruction.

“Every student can learn, and every student can learn at their own pace. Unfortunately, that third-grade reading guarantee and the retention piece that goes with it is something that has just caused nightmares all around,” Carney said.

She recalled hearing two third graders talking to each other about the risk of not passing the assessment and that “they won’t let us go to fourth grade” if we don’t pass.

“No 8 or 9-year-old should have to deal with anything as stressful as something like that,” Carney said. “School should be a place where you feel safe; where you feel people are your cheerleaders, and that is exactly what we do here.”

Third grade is a “whole new ballgame,” Carney said

“Now, you are reading to learn not learning to read, and immediately in October, they get zapped with that test that they probably can’t read or understand anyway because it measures something at the end of third grade,” she said.

Students get multiple opportunities to pass the test.

The state board said that repealing the law would allow parents to be more involved in making retention decisions for their children. The Ohio Education Association supports the board’s action saying the mandatory retention legislation takes the decision about a student’s future out of the hands of parents, teachers and administrators, all based on arbitrary “cut scores.”

“It’s rare that policymakers stop and measure mandated education initiatives for their effectiveness, but that’s exactly what we have done for third-grade retention. Through data provided by the Ohio Department of Education, we now know retention has failed as an initiative and has, in fact, hurt children more than helped,” said Dr. Christina Collins, Ohio State Board of Education member for District 7, who put forth the resolution that the State Board of Education is considering this week.

Ohio House Bill 497 which addresses the mandatory retention law passed the Ohio House in June. The Senate will take up the bill when they return later this fall.