Ohio: Third graders must read or repeat

Ohio’s “third grade guarantee” — students who don’t read on grade level will be held back – is the subject of a PBS report.

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  1. Cardinal Fang says:

    This is so simpleminded. The problem is not fourth-graders who can’t read; the problem is 10-year-olds who can’t read. If they’re in third grade, they’ll still be 10-year-olds who can’t read. This program does nothing to decrease the number of 10-year-olds who can’t read.

  2. Cardinal Fang says:

    You’re just sticking those kids back with the same bungling teachers who couldn’t teach them to read the first time.

    • Mark Roulo says:

      It may not be the teachers.

      It might be the approach (whole language …).
      Or a kid might have a specific problem (dyslexia …).

      Or something else.

      My complaint would be a bit more general: Are we just doing the same thing again that didn’t work the first time?

  3. Cardinal Fang says:

    The kid might have dyslexia, or any number of other problems. But if the issue is kids being unable to read, then instead of mandating that they be retained in third grade, we should mandate that they get special remedial instruction teaching them to read. Keeping them in third grade lets people preen that they’re solving the problem, without actually doing anything to solve the problem.

  4. This whole idea triggered my ranty streak, so rather than gum up the comments, I posted on my blog: http://deirdremundy.blogspot.com/2013/01/insanity-is-repeating-same-failed.html

  5. I suppose it would be superfluous to point out that this “solution” has been part of the public education system for a very long time?

    Of course it would be. But what are the alternatives to blaming the kids, the parents and the budget? Saddling the professionals and the elective officials with a responsibility to educate the kids and consequences for a failure to do so?

    Yeah, like that’s going to happen within the current system.

    To provide a bit of the context that’s missing from the video about this “solution” let’s keep in mind that social promotion was considered a problem not that long ago. Does this exciting “guarantee” contain any provisions to prevent social promotion from being the solution to the problem of this solution?

  6. Stacy in NJ says:

    The problem is the quality of instruction which ranges from mediocre to piss-poor. Intensive intervention should happen very early during K and 1st grade. We know conclusively that Direct Instruction (Engelmann) is effective but choose not to use it because if requires so much from teachers. We know how to fix this but choose not for political and social reasons.

  7. Cardinal Fang says:

    In HappyElfLand, all children learn to read by osmosis. Sadly, in RealityLand, many don’t. Many children need explicit instruction. And while Deirdre is right that privileged children have better vocabularies, the third graders who can’t read can’t read. They can’t read the words they know. Most of them can be taught to read, by good teachers using explicit reading instruction techniques. Being read to and being talked to is good, but for many young non-readers it’s not enough.

    • Fang- yes, but without vocabulary and background knowledge, all the phonics in the world can’t help you. I’ve seen kids who can sound out a sentence perfectly, but who can’t tell you what they just read, because it was just gibberish to them.

      I mean, I could sound out:
      The surfanting snazzgoozle fleagulled zingortfully around the semprivinine vootspasm.

      I couldn’t tell you what it means. For many kids, even high school kids, a lot of reading involves sounding out gibberish.

      • Ah, but that’s quite all right – using the guide on the side, they can construct their own knowledge and figure out what all that gibberish means. They don’t need background knowledge and stinking facts! They can just Google it!!


  8. The aim of Ohio’s third grade guarantee is not to have non-reading third-graders repeat third grade, but to catch the problem and fix it before repeating third grade becomes necessary. There are provisions (or loop-holes, according to another view) that make exceptions and offer alternatives for kids with learning disabilities.

  9. Cardinal Fang says:

    Nobody here doubts that it would be a good idea for Ohio schools to notice that second and third graders can’t read, and teach them to read. But for my part, I don’t see how this initiative makes that good result more likely. Seems to me, this will just mean that non-readers get stuck back in third grade again, with no extra help.

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      Actually, it is collective punishment. It punishes students, parents, and teachers. It whole goal is to embarrass all of them into trying harder. I wish it were possible to only punish the parents and the teachers. 9 year olds should only have very limited responsibility. Can we hold back the parents and the teachers and let the third graders move on?

    • IIRC, FL has a program in which early-grade (I think just k-2) are pretty easily retained BUT they don’t get the same class they had the previous year. They get instruction specifically targeted to their weak area(s) – it’s not just reading. It seems to work well, in that the kids do well as they move up the grades.

      I started first grade in a small-town 1-12 school, in the 50s, and every kid was reading at the end of first grade, Since there was no kindergarten and no preschool in town, first grade was the first year of instruction for all. Of course, even though we had the whole language Dick and Jane books, Miss Higley taught phonics using the old books and good old-fashioned instruction. The school also specifically taught spelling, grammar and composition. Very few kids (maybe 3-4 out of 35) had even one parent with a college degree and only 3-4 kids per grade went to a 4-year college, so this was definitely not a high-SES town and yet everyone had decent literacy, numeracy and general knowledge. I never saw signs like “Happy Holiday’s from XYZ” or “Celebrate and festive With Us” – both of which I have recently seen on local businesses. And then there is “Sign-up now for the spring semester” on a CC sign.

      • Mom of 4 — but how many came from homes where Dad was in the picture, and where parents stressed that school was important and that misbehavior at school earned punishments at home?

  10. Stacy in NJ says:

    “Barring disability, there is no reason children won’t just pick this up by osmosis, and who cares what age it happens.”

    This may be your experience with your own children but statistically it’s just wrong. Most children need to be taught how to read. And insisting that most children will learn via osmosis was part of the basis of the whole language debacle.

  11. You’re not seriously proposing that children will learn to read by osmosis from the TV, are you? Because that’s probably what they’re doing when they’re absent. Also, there is a window for language learning by osmosis that begins to shut around age 5-6, so we do care what age it happens.

    I’ve volunteered in a medium-security prison; I was surprisingly comfortable in there, as it was quite like my army basic training experience. What you see in the video is good classroom/school management, nothing more. Do you look at the scene and wish there were more pushing and shoving and shouting, or that the students were a little less engaged? SERIOUSLY?

  12. Hi, Stacy. In my experience, most children do not learn to sound words out. But it may be that it is an autism thing (most of my children are diagnosed), and I’d sure welcome research into this area. I do know many other homeschooling families who don’t follow a “reading curriculum” or whathaveyou and their children do learn to read fluently, usually before age 7.

  13. What assumptions! It’s a lifestyle thing. The fact that you are on education blog and ALSO have been working in a prison is very, very telling. I wait on line frequently for my groceries, at the DMV, and so forth and can assure you that I don’t keep my hands handcuff-style behind my back AND I’m able to refrain from pushing the annoying customers around me. I expect my children to do the same. They’ve never punched a fellow customer or tossed people to the ground in Wal-Mart, and I’ve been parenting for over 19 years.

    You make assumptions that children will behave badly, that they don’t want to work, and that all parents are low-class yokels who use the television to parent. And you wonder why parents have a hostile attitude sometimes. Hm.

  14. You’ve nailed it, Happy Elf. I volunteered in the prisons specifically to exercise my authoritarian impulses that I can’t get away with in a normal classroom setting.

    Now that I’ve eaten your red herring, to the matter at hand. The only assumption I’m making is that the school system as shown in the video is working well for its students and families. You’ve arrived at the opposite conclusion. I’d say you bear the greater burden of proof.

  15. Nice comeback! Ha ha ha!

    Anyway. Things cannot be “working well” if none of these people can positively guarantee that all children are reading fluently at the end of third grade. Schools get tons of money and they have these children for 7 or 8 hours a day. My four-year-old walks over with a book about three to four times a day as she chooses, and we spend ten minutes each time. Surely an untrained person like me should NOT get better results than these chicks with master’s degrees and taxpayer funded curriculum. Come on. The math is not in my favour. I’ve priced these special “teacher packages” online and my beat-up copy of “Go, Dog. Go!” does not compete. 🙂

  16. This is somewhat ironic, but it seems I have more respect for homeschooling than you do, since I would expect a passionate, reasonably intelligent homeschooling parent with a strong backbone in a supportive community (please note all the caveats) to get better results than chicks with MA’s and a taxpayer-funded curriculum most days of the year.

  17. Could the children of parents who choose to homeschool differ in significant ways from the children who remain in school?