(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
Ohio recently passed a law to curtail social promotion from the 3rd grade for students requiring extra help in reading. Not everyone is thrilled as a Ohio Newspaper recently reported ”Pike-Delta-York Superintendent Ken Jones thinks the state is overstepping its boundaries with the mandate. ‘School administrators and parents are smart enough to figure all that out. We don’t need the state coming in and telling us how to operate or telling us how to move kids through our system,’ he said.”
I’m sure Ohio school administrators are plenty smart, but they might want to go look at some data before making their mind up about the need for this policy. The figure below draws data from the NAEP data explorer, showing the percentage of Ohio students scoring “Below Basic” and “Proficient or Better” on the 2011 4th grade reading NAEP by ethnicity.
Superintendent Jones does seem to have one thing right- he and his fellow Ohio Superintendents apparently know all about “moving kids through the system”- even the students who desperately need more help in mastering basic literacy skills. Note that among Ohio’s Black students that four times as many scored Below Basic as Proficient. The fact that fifty-four percent of Ohio’s Black 4th graders couldn’t read in 2011 hardly constitutes a firm basis for a “steady as she goes!” declaration.
Superintendent Jones may feel confident that he and his compatriots have this whole reading thing figured out, but it is little wonder why Ohio legislators and Governor Kasich saw things a bit differently. If I really wanted to be cruel I would go look up the numbers for Cleveland in the TUDA…err…wait….too late!
More than twice as many White students scoring Below Basic as Proficient, almost 13 times as many Black students scoring in the illiterate area as Proficient, seven times as many among Hispanics. Little wonder that Ohio lawmakers also decided to depart from the status-quo again and turn the district over to the Mayor.
What makes anyone think that this policy will make things better? Well there are no guarantees that Ohio will implement it as well as Florida, but here is what happened in Florida:
I’m sure that life would be easier for Ohio Superintendents if lawmakers would just keep sending the money to the districts without asking any questions. I’m also however certain that it would not make life for students any easier if Ohio continued to ignore what is plainly a literacy crisis.