Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee law is in full swing this year and since we’ve had last year’s achievement test results, we thought it was a good time to look at the probable impact it will have at the end of this school year.  In addition to the statistics, some of the recent rhetoric surrounding the implementation of Common Core in Ohio has exposed the hypocrisy of Ohio’s Republican-adopted Third Grade Reading Guarantee law.

Let’s start with the hypocrisy around the law (we’ll discuss the statistics in a later post).  When the latest version of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee (TGRG) was adopted, the legislation mandated the requirements that the local school must take with a student who does not demonstrate proficiency in reading.

Here is how it reads from Ohio Revised Code 3313.608:

(2) Beginning with students who enter third grade in the 2013-2014 school year, unless the student is excused under division (C) of section 3301.0711 of the Revised Code from taking the assessment described in this section, no school district shall promote to fourth grade any student who does not attain at least the equivalent level of achievement designated under division (A)(3) of section 3301.0710 of the Revised Code on the assessment prescribed under that section to measure skill in English language arts expected at the end of third grade, unless one of the following applies:

(a) The student is a limited English proficient student who has been enrolled in United States schools for less than three full school years and has had less than three years of instruction in an English as a second language program.

(b) The student is a child with a disability entitled to special education and related services under Chapter 3323. of the Revised Code and the student’s individualized education program exempts the student from retention under this division.

(c) The student demonstrates an acceptable level of performance on an alternative standardized reading assessment as determined by the department of education.

(d) All of the following apply:

(i) The student is a child with a disability entitled to special education and related services under Chapter 3323. of the Revised Code.

(ii) The student has taken the third grade English language arts achievement assessment prescribed under section 3301.0710 of the Revised Code.

(iii) The student’s individualized education program or plan under section 504 of the “Rehabilitation Act of 1973,” 87 Stat. 355, 29 U.S.C. 794, as amended, shows that the student has received intensive remediation in reading for two school years but still demonstrates a deficiency in reading.

(iv) The student previously was retained in any of grades kindergarten to three.

In short, and with few exceptions, unless a student attains the proficient score on the 3rd Grade Ohio Achievement Assessment, the school is going to be required to retain the student in third grade.  End of discussion.  The law does not permit a parent to intervene at this point.  The Ohio Department of Education website answers this question as follows:

What happens if a parent refuses interventions or retention required by the Third Grade Reading Guarantee?

The law does not provide a parent the right to refuse the requirements of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. This includes student retention, diagnostic assessments, reading improvement and monitoring plans, and intervention services. However, services outside regular school hours should accommodate the schedule of the student’s parents or guardian. [emphasis added]

The Ohio law carries over even further and, because of the specific language, does not allow a parent to “opt-out” of the test either.  According to the Ohio Department of Education and spelled out in the Ohio Revised Code, a child who does not take the 3rd grade reading Ohio Achievement Assessment (does not participate) ends up with a score of zero, therefore does not attain the necessary score on the reading test and under the law, the school is required to retain that student until the student actually takes the test and attains the minimum passing score.

This level of governmental control is fascinating in its own right, but it becomes even more interesting in light of the fact that the law was passed along partisan lines — Democrats voted against and Republicans voted in favor.  And on the Republican side of the aisle in strong support of this law were Ohio’s Tea Party Republicans.

Jump forward to this year – those same Ohio Tea Party Republicans are up in arms about the adoption of the Common Core in Ohio and are advocating for the repeal of the Common Core standards in Ohio.  And why are they so opposed to the Common Core standards?

Let’s look at it in their own words:

“Since Ohio is a local control state, local school districts should have the freedom to adopt educational curricula that best suit their students. Imposing a one-size-fits-all, top-down approach that centralizes authority is not in the best interest of our young people or our state”.  – Representative Andy Thompson

“Adopting Common Core State Standards takes control of educational content and standards away from parents, taxpayers, local school districts, and states.”  Toledo Tea Party

“Ohioans who believe in local control of education will be pleased to hear that State Representative Andy Thompson introduced his Common Core repeal bill…”  Ohio Liberty Coalition

“By essentially nationalizing standards, the ability for parents, teachers, and local school boards to control academic content and testing is ceded to groups based in a far away capital.”Representative Andy Thompson

“We’ll address the issues surrounding parental and local control, quality of instruction, legalities of federal intrusion and the unfunded cost concerns.”  Wayne County Tea Party

“The Common Core State Standards…will require extensive expensive professional development. In most states, these costs will be borne by local school districts.  – Toledo Tea Party

NOTE: The Third Grade Reading Guarantee also requires extensive, unfunded professional development and staffing issues.  Each teacher must obtain appropriate credentials through training ($$$) and will ultimately need to obtain a reading endorsement (through college coursework – $$$) or pass a standardized reading test developed by ETS demonstrating their reading content knowledge ($$$).

“Is your state making a major commitment on behalf of local school boards without showing or ascertaining that funds are available to meet the fiscal obligation?” – Toledo Tea Party

“We seek this measure [repeal of CCSS] for the following reasons: To affirm the right of parents in their child’s educationTo restore local control of education; To reduce the power of standardized testing. – NW Ohio Conservative Coalition via Toledo Tea Party & Ohioans Against Common Core

“We have watched this incrementalism erode our parental authority, local control, community values and American heritage.”Ohioans Against Common Core [This group started out as predominantly a Tea Party initiative and has garnered support from Democrats who also oppose the CCSS.]

Other news outlets confirm that Tea Party members claim to be concerned about the erosion of control by local school districts:

“Tea party members are worried that the standards will weaken local control over schools. Tea party groups have backed a bill to repeal Common Core in Ohio.”Columbus Dispatch

“In fact, some on the right, fearing a loss of local control of schools, refer to the new standards as “ObamaCore,” and they want to stop its implementation.”StateImpact Ohio

“The remainder of the four elected and seven appointed members [of Ohio’s School Board] are Republicans who generally favor limited government, local control and have many ties to the governor.”Akron Beacon-Journal

Finally, others have chimed in about their supposed advocacy for greater local and parental control over educational decisions:

Ohio is a local control state and respects the rights of communities to decide what makes sense for the education of their children.” – Ohio Department of Education spokesman John Charlton (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

“Republican State Sen. Randy Gardner of Bowling Green says that’s where Senate Bill 229 comes in. He says his legislation makes some changes to OTES that reward good teachers and give school districts more local control.” – State Senator Randy Gardner discussing changes to Ohio’s Teacher Evaluation System (ideastream.org)

On an issue like this, I firmly believe it is important to maintain local control whenever possible. – Representative Andy Thompson (again) discussing House Bill 8 which would permit handguns to be carried by adults in schools

And finally, from the national level, parts of an anti-Common Core resolution passed by the Republican National Committee:

“RESOLVED, the Republican National Committee, as stated in the 2012 Republican Party Platform, “do not believe in a one size fits all approach to education and support providing broad education choices to parents and children at the State and local level…”

Over and over and over again, we see these conservatives preach about the need to return control over educational decisions (and other issues) to parents and local school districts, yet Ohio’s Republicans unanimously adopted Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee that intentionally and specifically removes the parent from the decision-making process, requires schools to implement state-mandated corrective measures (not locally-adopted), and subsequently places the financial burden on the local district and local taxpayers.

They can’t pick and choose when parental and local control should be allowed and when it shouldn’t.  If these hypocrites truly believed that parents and local school districts were important and should be making decisions to meet the needs of their local communities, then parents wouldn’t have been shut out of the decision-making process surrounding their child’s promotion or retention.

Again, here is ODE’s summary of the law that these alleged advocates of increased local and parental control adopted:

The law does not provide a parent the right to refuse the requirements of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. This includes student retention, diagnostic assessments, reading improvement and monitoring plans, and intervention services.

The Tea Party legislators claim they are speaking up for increased local and parental control over the education process, but their actions show us differently — they’ve eliminated parental choice through the TGRG legislation.