From the Superintendent



This week, I would like to devote the newsletter to one of the most important tools we have to give our boys and girls a bright future: the Third Grade Reading Guarantee.  
Reading is critical for student success. Yet, more than 27,000 Ohio third graders are not reading at grade level today. These struggling readers must receive the best intervention from the best reading teachers our state has to offer. 
The Third Grade Reading Guarantee law outlines a few ways teachers can verify that they are qualified reading instructors.  For 2013-2014, a teacher must be actively engaged in the reading instruction of students for the previous three years and fulfill at least one of the following options:

  1. Have a reading endorsement;
  2. Have a master’s in reading or literacy;
  3. Be rated above value-added in reading for the previous two years; or
  4. Have a credential from an approved research-based reading instruction program. A list of approved programs can be found here.

For 2013-2014, the qualifications are required only for teachers of third grade students affected by the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. In 2014-2015, they apply to teachers of kindergarten through third grade students. 
In 2014-2015, a new option will replace the reading instruction program (option 4 in the list above).  There will be a new reading instruction test that, if passed, will qualify the teacher to instruct struggling readers. This test is currently under review and it should be available this fall.
What if a district doesn’t currently have enough teachers that have these qualifications?  
For 2013-2014 only, districts can submit a plan to the Ohio Department of Education if they don’t have enough qualified teachers for their struggling readers. The plan should outline how districts will evaluate teachers and match the best reading teachers to the students who need them the most. If approved, the teachers will follow this district’s plan for one year.
In addition, a bill under is consideration in the Ohio General Assembly that would give teachers more ways to demonstrate their ability to teach reading. 
Senate Bill 21 would eliminate the requirement that a teacher must be actively engaged in the reading instruction of students for the previous three years . The version of the bill pending in the House would give teachers the option to demonstrate their competency by:

  • Having a reading endorsement;
  • Having a master’s degree in reading;
  • Completing an approved reading instruction program;
  • Passing the reading instruction test; or
  • Being an effective reading instructor as determined by ODE.

We will keep you updated about this legislation as information becomes available. 
What does all this mean? Districts have time and different options to ensure that qualified reading teachers are helping our most at-risk students. Before making any staffing decisions, consider whether filing a plan with ODE would give you additional time to make better choices for your schools. And if you are not absolutely certain about an element of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, please email ODEthirdgradeguarantee@education.ohio.gov.   
I truly appreciate your dedication to Ohio’s boys and girls.
Dr. Richard A. Ross