Ohio’s leading legislator in implementing education reforms, who I have frequently urged you to contact about needed changes to the Third Grade Reading Guarantee law, has stopped listening to constituents.  Senator Peggy Lehner, chair of the Senate Education Committee appeared on 10tv’s Capitol Square program last Sunday and clearly stated that she is firmly behind the law as it has been enacted, especially the mandatory retention component that will hold back any third grader who doesn’t achieve the arbitrary cut score on Ohio’s standardized reading assessment this Spring.

Said Lehner, after stating that neither the state nor school districts were ready, “One of my biggest concerns is that we don’t have the political will to stick with this.”

Lehner went on to say that this will be a hard sell — “a tough year” — when the numbers of children being retained are revealed, but that this law is absolutely necessary.

Notice that Senator Lehner didn’t talk about the research that reveals that mandatory retention does long-term damage to children; research that reveals that retention is an added risk factor for dropping out, especially for children of poverty — the children who are disproportionately affected by this law.

No, Senator Lehner is no longer interested in listening to facts that contradict her beliefs about this law, she is simply interested in stubbornly holding the line on this law that will cause irreparable harm to children.

Of course, when this new group of 3rd graders are retained, and when they begin to drop out of school at a higher rate in the next 7-8 years, where will Senator Lehner be?  Gone, not to be held accountable.  Even if Lehner is re-elected in 2016, she will be out in 2020 due to term limits, and will likely be retired as she’ll turn 70 in that same year.  So really, what does she care?  The research shows that while retention often shows short term bumps in achievement, the long-term effects are too damaging and the likelihood of dropping out increases.  For the current third graders that are retained for missing “the score” on the one-day test, they will now hit high school in the same year that Lehner’s time in the Ohio Senate runs out — 2020.

By 2020, the damage will be done by Lehner and her stubborn “political will”.  There is no way to “undo” this damage later on — the mandatory retention component of the law must be removed now.  There are no take backs.

At the end of the interview, Lehner adds in a final comment that further points out another clearly absurd component of this law and just how jumbled her rationale for holding the line is.  Lehner states that this law is imperative “because after third grade we quit teaching reading”.  In other places, this has been explained by the phrase “in K-2, kids are learning to read, but in grade 3 and up, kids are reading to learn”.

If this was true, and if it’s so imperative to retain these children in third grade because they will be unsuccessful in all of the other subjects (science, math, social studies, etc.) without knowing “how to read”, then why does the law allow schools to provide the students with 4th grade level content in those other areas while remaining in 3rd grade for reading?  Think about that logic — schools are being forced to retain students because they allegedly can’t read on grade level and without that ability “can’t” be successful in the other subject areas, yet they are allowed to provide “appropriate fourth grade instruction in the other subject areas“.

Seriously, how does that even make sense?

This law is a joke.  A sadistic, misguided, poorly-informed, one-size-fits-all joke that will impose irreversible harm on thousands of 8- and 9-year old kids.

Thanks for keeping an open mind, Senator Lehner.



  • Think.

    Senator Peggy Lehner and and her accomplices in the American Legislative Exchange Council have never been interested in listening to facts that might get in the way of ALEC’s privatization agenda that will be carried out through the Third Grade Guarantee.

  • carrieee4

    She is full of ^&*&^(09. It will help no one. If you want to help then let’s get good preschool for all (free) Make it mandatory for all day Kindergarten, lower the number of students in a classroom to 15 or give all k-3 classrooms an all day every day aid. So that teachers can successfully teach the students at the “high” level they want us to do and be able to successfully differentiate our instruction so we can move those who are behind more successfully up. Oh and FUND these mandates!!! Yep that is what she should be advocating for. Not the failure of our 3rd grade students.

  • DublinIrishBob

    If you retain a large number of kids, you can make the case that public schools (the socialist kind) are poor performers and not educating their students. The GOP will then push even harder to cut public education funding and head down the path towards a two tier system; public schools for the suburban students and charters for the urban areas. Political will is needed by the GOP to ride this out, to hang tough when the public and educators protest. They know exactly what they are doing. SB5 all over again.

  • anastasjoy

    And after the charters prove to be catastrophic failures – which a majority of those in Ohio have ALREADY been proved to be — we can’t take them back and restore the kids’ lost education either. We already know that the current charter system is a failure but all they want to do is feed it steroids, so to speak. It’s almost like they hate children, at least poor ones.

    Thanks as always for your great work, Greg. If only we could say that about a majority in our legislature.

  • amyvav

    I’m trying to come up with an insightful, thought-provoking comment. I can’t. It’s 10:00 on Sunday night and I just finished re-working a writing rubric for my 6th graders’ assignment tomorrow. Good thing we 6th grade teachers don’t need to be bothered with teaching reading. When would we ever find the time to prepare????? Other than that bit of snarky sarcasm, I only have swear words to offer regarding Ms. Lehner – really big swear words. Thanks for another crucial, if infuriating, post, Greg.

  • jr6020

    I think you’re on to something, Bob. Kasich and company have total elimination of public schooling within their sights. Enrich their private school funders and destroy public employee unions are their ultimate goals. Kasich’s too slick to try anything before Nov but if he’s re-elected this will be the top item on their legislature agenda…and next time they will find a way around any repeal efforts that killed SB 5…

  • Maggi Cook

    So you agree that “one size fits all” government mandates injure more than they help, interesting

  • How much funding has been provided to ensure students pass these tests? Can parents opt their children out of the testing if they have IEPs? Will some parents throw hissy fits when their child is retained and demand promotion? What will the GOP do if 3rd grade classrooms across the state suddenly have too many students and not enough teachers & desks?

    I think that Republicans & Kasich just haven’t thought through their “reading guarantee’ other than a plan to have total charter control.

  • fairminded

    Hmmmm Maggie! Our entire system of government is based on laws for all. Our constitution has a series of articles and amendments that essentially are mandates of how government will operate for all. We are called the UNITED States because in fact that is what the founders intended; to unite a group of people. So do you favor the opposite which is anarchy?

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