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OEA calls for end of mandatory retention under Third Grade Reading Guarantee

[October 10, 2022] The Ohio Education Association (OEA) joined together Monday with state leaders, educators, and education policy experts to advocate for action in the General Assembly to end mandatory retention tied to third-grade standardized testing.

A full recording of Monday’s virtual event can be viewed and downloaded here.

“Mandatory retention under the so-called ‘Third Grade Reading Guarantee’ takes decisions about students’ futures out of the hands of parents, administrators, and teachers who know them best, allowing politicians in Columbus to determine their fates based on arbitrary cut-scores on high-stakes English language arts tests,” said OEA President Scott DiMauro, who moderated Monday’s event. “OEA commends the State Board of Education for its attention to this issue as it considers a resolution to call on the General Assembly to change this misguided law.”

“Grade retention distorts test data, disproportionately impacts and punishes vulnerable populations of students, and creates a distraction from reading reform’s ultimate goal of increased student reading proficiency,” noted Furman University Professor Dr. Paul Thomas in his recent white paper, “A Critical Examination of Grade Retention as Reading Policy.”

“It’s rare that policymakers stop and measure mandated education initiatives for their effectiveness, but that’s exactly what we have done for third grade retention. Through data provided by the Ohio Department of Education, we now know retention has failed as an initiative and has, in fact, hurt children more than helped,” said Dr. Christina Collins, Ohio State Board of Education member for District 7, who put forth the resolution that the State Board of Education is considering this week.

“In my experiences as a third-grade teacher, I have observed students put tremendous stress on themselves, become discouraged, think of themselves as losers, and develop behavioral problems because of this punitive, socially inappropriate, and educationally ineffective practice,” agreed Karen Carney, a teacher at Campbell Elementary & Middle School in Campbell, Ohio. “What a huge burden for a young child to carry—this truly broke my heart. As an educator, my primary job is to teach my students to be life-long learners, not test takers.”

“Ending mandatory retention has broad bipartisan support because it’s the right thing to do for kids,” said State Rep. Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville), who sponsored House Bill 497, a measure to end mandatory retention under the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. “These decisions should be made by parents and educators, not dictated by a score on a test.”

House Bill 497 passed in the Ohio House in June. The Ohio Senate must take up the bill and pass it when lawmakers return to session later this fall.

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