Ohio’s legislators’ misguided belief in their infinite wisdom of education reform continues to be exposed as Senate Bill 316 — their most recent attempt at demonstrating their knowledge of schools — has become law.  The latest display of their ignorance of the education system can be found in the requirements that exist as a part of the “Third Grade Reading Guarantee.”

The “guarantee” is detailed in Ohio Revised Code 3313.608 and has been explained as a way to ensure that all students are proficient readers before moving on to the 4th grade.  A key component of the new law is a series of new tests for students in all of the primary grades that require both a massive amount of added non-instructional time as well as significant additional expenses (with no additional state funding) on schools and districts as they implement these new assessments.  These tests are intended to identify those students (ages 5-8) who are below proficient in reading.  As a result of this identification, these students are required to receive reading intervention services, including a “reading improvement and monitoring plan” for each student that includes a couple interesting (i.e., asinine) requirements:

  • Opportunities for the student’s parent or guardian to be involved in the instructional services
  • A reading curriculum during regular school hours that does all of the following: (a) Assists students to read at grade level; (b) Provides scientifically based and reliable assessment; (c) Provides initial and ongoing analysis of each student’s reading progress.

Before I digress much more, I simply want to highlight the ignorance of including such statements in this law.

First, parents already have an unbelievable number of opportunities to be “involved in the instructional services”, and any teacher of a struggling reader would literally beg for that child’s parents to become more involved.  Many teachers will regularly send books home with children and parents and are always willing to provide guidance to parents to enhance their ability to assist their child with reading.  The “requirement” that schools must do this for those children who need intervention wrongly implies that this opportunity doesn’t already exist for all parents.

Second, the requirement that districts have a reading curriculum that actually works (to paraphrase) is laughably simplistic and again implies that such programs don’t already exist in schools.  The reality here, if the legislators had bothered to ask anyone who might know, is that such reading programs have been the standard in Ohio’s elementary schools for well over a decade.

While these items demonstrate a basic ignorance of learning in today’s schools, there is another requirement now in law that demonstrates a blatant ignorance of the teacher credentialing process and/or economics.

The same Ohio legislators who sought to reduce teacher compensation through Senate Bill 5 last year and who have cut public school funding (including to the Ohio Department of Education), included a requirement in the 3rd Grade Guarantee that will cost individual teachers over $17,000 each — most likely an out-of-pocket expense.

From ORC 3313.608(C)(6):

Each student with a reading improvement and monitoring plan under this division who enters third grade after July 1, 2013, shall be assigned to a teacher who has either received a passing score on a rigorous test of principles of scientifically based reading instruction approved by the state board of education or has a reading endorsement on the teacher’s license.

At this point, the Ohio Department of Education isn’t even working on identifying a rigorous test due to their belief that this absurd law must be changed (likely related to their inability to find funding for an additional testing process themselves).  From the ODE website:

Should the changes not occur, the State Board will review and select a reading instruction test in early 2013. At this time, the selection process has not yet begun and there are no details to share.

Absent the revisions (where was ODE when this law was being passed in the first place?), all teachers working with students who fall under this law’s provisions will be required to have a reading endorsement as part of their teaching license.  Currently, a reading endorsement can only be earned by completing an approved program of study at a college or university.  This is no small feat, either.  With all Ohio’s universities being converted over to the semester system, the typical approved endorsement program can be found to consist of 21 semester hours and 7 courses.

For a teacher working full-time (and with their own family in most cases) it would be unreasonable to expect them to take more than one course per semester. Therefore, the teacher that started classes this Spring would take over two full years to complete the endorsement.  If everything went on schedule that would have the teacher completing the coursework by the end of Spring 2015 semester – just in time for the 2015-2016 school year and two years later than Ohio’s legislator’s have required in their law.

And if that timing wasn’t bad enough, the cost is atrocious.  At The Ohio State University, the largest university in the state, the reading endorsement program consists of seven courses, three semester hours each.  The chart for tuition and fees for the 2012-2013 academic year is below (click chart to enlarge).

A single one of those reading endorsement courses this spring would cost the teacher $2,367.90 in tuition and fees alone.  That total does not include parking on campus, textbook(s), or the likely cost of a babysitter for the 15 nights of class.

Hey teachers, any of you have an extra $2,400 just lying around?  Because those legislators who want to cut your pay also want you to fork that over each semester in order to legally teach your struggling students (on top of that degree and license you already earned, of course).

That $2,367 price tag is only good for spring and summer semesters, however.  In the fall, expect OSU to once again raise their tuition by 3% to $2,438.94, which will run for your next three classes.  After you’ve paid for those, tuition will again increase by another 3% for your remaining two classes — $2,512.11.

In the end, the summary of a teacher’s tuition and fees will look like:

Term Tuition & Fees
Spring 2013 $2,367.90
Summer 2013 $2,367.90
Fall 2013 $2,438.94
Spring 2014 $2,438.94
Summer 2014 $2,438.94
Fall 2014 $2,512.11
Spring 2015 $2,512.11
Total $17,076.82

And when the teacher finally finishes these courses, they get the added bonus of forking out an additional $139 to take the required Praxis II test required by the Ohio Department of Education to finalize the endorsement.

Seriously — this is what Ohio’s legislators passed into law as a legal requirement for teachers of struggling readers in grades K-3. Does anyone think the prospect of paying out an additional $17,000 dollars will somehow attract teachers to teach our struggling learners?  And how does the legislature think a school district will entice a teacher to take out more student loans in order to stay in a kindergarten classroom?

Beyond the obvious absurdity of the legislature overlooking the outrageous out-of-pocket cost to teachers is the ridiculous notion that such a change could happen in such a short time frame. (Who out there wants their child’s teacher to also be attending graduate school full-time?)

I’m just plain sick and tired of Ohio’s legislators making these uninformed decisions about education items like these that would be so easily uncovered if they could be bothered to listen every once in a while and actually stopped to imagine the full ramifications of the bills they’re so eager to show off.

Finally, for those of you who have children in grades K-3, please consider donating to their teacher’s college fund.  They’re going to need it.

  • I thought schools already paid for continuing education?

  • Steve

    they may pay a small part of continuing education, but not the amounts stated here.

  • Not that kind of continuing education. They pay for the what they provide you through your school system, not through Universities and Colleges. That we pay for. I am just glad that I graduated with a reading endorsement and have a masters in education with a reading specialization.

  • bluustreak

    Some districts help pay for graduate credit, but not all. The amount varies from district to district.

  • becca

    And you probably wouldn’t learn anything new or exciting that you don’t already know or are implementing as best practice in your class already.

  • Ed

    This is the sort of nonsense that poisoned the well for me after I’d completed nearly all of the coursework to test for certification to teach after a long professional career in another field. It’s like they want to make the profession toxic to anyone considering it.

  • Observant One

    Due to the new teacher evaluation rules based on students’ standardized test scores, we’re already seeing special ed teachers bidding out to different positions. We will soon see 3rd grade teachers doing the same. Ridiculous expectations by non-educators are causing fallout that will be evident in the near future. The best teachers are smart enough to know when it’s time to get out of a no-win situation.

  • DMoore

    Well, like the famous coach Paul Brown once said of an incompetent individual; “I don’t blame him, I blame the person who hired him.” The blame goes squarely on the shoulders of the Ohio voters who “hired” these fools to begin with. Voters who were too lazy to give serious thought to the consequences of putting people into office who have little or no knowledge of the educational process. Education is one of the most important responsibilities of political leaders. To be so uninformed is nothing short of negligence. And to pass into law something that sounds good but is practically speaking impossible to implement is inexcuasable. Did they learn nothing from the 4th Grade guarentee?

  • John W.

    Excellent commentary, Greg! Thank you for breaking down the numbers to show what our public employees are expected to do because of Kasich’s unfunded mandates.

    The worst thing is that this law doesn’t even sound like it will help get more help to students. It just creates more hoops for teachers to jump through.

    If the State House really wants to improve the quality of teachers, they need to write laws that encourage the profession, such increasing pay, changing how schools are funded, and/or providing teachers with opportunities to improve as professionals.

  • Alternatively, teachers could simply hold back any student who will not be reading at grade level in the next grade.

  • Marlowe53

    I don’t know much about public education but, like most other people, I want it to work. It appears that there is a problem with teachers promoting students who have not achieved acceptable levels in language arts. We have kids in pubic universities who can’t write a paragraph so they’ve probably been promoted when they should not have been. When I was in school a loooong time ago, those kids had sessions with reading specialist during the regular school day. Was that found not to be effective?
    I agree that people who already have been hired should not be required to get expensive new certifications, though. If the state determines that new certifications are needed, pay for it and pay those teachers for the time spent attaining that certification.

  • Michele Winship

    And here is another confounding factor. The Ohio Board of Regents has just determined that the reading endorsement can no longer be earned in an undergraduate program and now must include ADDITIONAL clinical hours!. Currently there are several institutions who offer the reading endorsement at the undergraduate level so that candidates in teacher preparation programs can earn the endorsement with initial licensure. That will all go away in the next two years. So…the third grade guarantee puts MORE requirements on teachers while at the same time the state is making those requirements more DIFFICULT to obtain. We have fallen into the rabbit hole.

  • wallpatty79@gmail.com

    Teachers pass flunkys because the Federal Government bases the money allot as to how many kids are in your school. PEOPLE realize the Federal Gov. wants you to pass dumbies!!!! They don’t want to be outsmarted. I graduated in 1967 I had a good Education. I see my grandchildren going to school and it is PATHETIC!Q!!!!!!

  • CT

    I’m an Ohio teacher who recently took her reading endorsement PRAXIS II test. I was lucky enough to have gone through an undergraduate program that automatically linked the classes you needed for the Early Childhood Education Program. However, I didn’t take the test right out of college, because, frankly, I didn’t have the money. I have had three years’ classroom experience. I can say right now I would have never passed that test taking college classes only. What got me to pass was my OWN CLASSROOM EXPERIENCE, allowing me to study theories, definitions and ideas I’ve put into practice on my own. Taking college credit and spending more money isn’t the answer, real experience is.

  • MusicT

    Parents can override a teacher’s recommendation for a child to be held back. The parent has the ultimate say regardless of what the teacher or district feels would be best for the child.

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