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Teachers await new rules on reading

September 23, 2012
By KEVIN HOWELL , Salem News

SALEM- Teachers at Buckeye and Reilly elementaries are keeping an eye on new legislation regulating third-grade reading, but are not going to jump to any rash decisions, according to Reilly Principal Cindy Viscounte.

At the regular school board meeting last week, Viscounte explained to board members the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which requires all third-grade students reach a certain level of achievement before advancing to fourth grade. The legislation is a continued work in progress with many aspects still to be determined, she said. This year the cutoff mark is a 390 score on Ohio Achievement Assessments (limited/proficient range), but will change to 392 in 2013 and continue to change in subsequent years.

"[We're] not going to panic, panic doesn't do any good," she said. "We'll stay knowledgeable for when these changes come up. We'll pursue it [now] so we know what it is that we're required to do...then make a plan."

Viscounte said the program focuses on four requirements- diagnostic assessments, reading improvement plans, data reporting and grade retention. Schools are required to assess each student in kindergarten through third grade before Sept. 30 each year to identify students as "on track" or "not on track" based on prior year skills. The results must be submitted to the Ohio Department of Education.

"On track" students will received 90 minutes of language arts/reading instruction each day and will be assessed throughout the year to determine if intervention is needed.

"Not on track" students will require a written notice to parents, immediate intervention and development of a reading improvement plan within 60 days. Additionally beginning in 2013-14 the school must provide a teacher who has passed a "reading instruction test" (as yet to be determined by ODE) or has a reading endorsement on their license. Viscounte said teachers currently with a reading endorsement include two of eight in kindergarten, five of eight in first grade, three of seven in second, one of seven in third and all five Title I tutors.

If a student misses the cut this year, the district may promote if it is felt the student is prepared based on another evaluation to be determined, promote the student and continue intervention or retain the student in third grade. In 2013-2014 the district must retain any student failing to meet the cut with the exception of those on an LEP with less than two years in a U.S. school, in special education, who demonstrates competency on a to be determined assessment or any student previously retained (will receive continued intensive reading instruction).

Students who are retained must receive at least 90 minutes instruction daily, be assigned a "high performing teacher" (unclear what it is at this time) and receive intervention services from one or more outside providers to be determined. Students will also receive fourth-grade instruction in areas in which they are proficient and schools must have a policy to advance the student once proficient. It is still unclear how a student who moves up will be assessed at the end of the year (whether at the prior level or current level), Viscounte said.

And although $13 million has been set aside by the state for grants to help districts defray the cost of implementing the program, Viscounte said applications must be submitted by Dec. 31 and there is yet to be applications made available. She also noted that districts may use Title I funding for additional instructional programs, but not on specific state mandates such as diagnostic assessments or notifying parents.

Viscounte said that the guarantee will not require a significant adjustment at Salem, though, since the staff already analyzes data, targets deficient areas and provides efficient intervention. Using last year's data, 14 students would have failed to meet requirements, she said, and intervention is already in place for those who need it. It is likely that none would have been retained, though, because the exemptions offered by the program, she said.

The key is staff from both elementaries working together on curriculum since reading is developed over time and affects everyone in kindergarten through third grade, Viscounte said.

Schools Superintendent Tom Bratten echoed Viscounte's sentiments to the board.

"The focus needs to be on (Buckeye Elementary), which will be incredibly responsible for starting off (the program)," he said.

Following the presentation the school board adopted the policy in its draft form and will adopt it in its full state once it is ready from the state.

Kevin Howell can be reached at



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