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Published: Tuesday, 6/26/2012

Governor signs education bill

3rd grade reading skills targeted

BLADE NEWS SERVICES

MADISONVILLE, Ohio -- Gov. John Kasich has signed a sweeping education bill that seeks to strengthen ties between the state's employers and public schools and makes dozens of other policy changes.

Mr. Kasich gave final approval to the bill Monday at Fifth Third Bank's operations center in Madisonville.

Under the measure, Ohio third graders lagging in reading skills face the possibility of being held back for up to two school years as they get academic help.

It sets adjusted training and retesting requirements for teachers who are deemed to be ineffective for two of the previous three years. The legislation also requires all special-needs students to get eye exams.

In addition, the bill would encourage public schools to adopt more online classes and cause teachers who have two negative evaluations to get more training and take subject-matter tests to keep their jobs.

But the centerpiece of the legislation is the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which would take effect in 2013-14.

The signing took place at Fifth Third Bank's operations center because the bank helped found INTERalliance of Greater Cincinnati, a group that encourages students to pursue careers in information technology.

Before signing the legislation, Mr. Kasich said it is not meant to punish students but to force school districts to pay closer attention to reading problems before third grade.

"We don't want to push [students] deeper into the woods so far they can't figure their way out," he said.

It will force schools to more closely monitor the reading progress of students in grades K-2.

Schools also would have to provide additional tutoring and services as soon as a reading problem is detected.

If after two years of this extra help a student is still behind third-grade peers, the student can be held back for up to two years.

The first students who may be affected are this year's entering second graders.

One state estimate said nearly 13 percent -- or 17,000 -- of Ohio's third graders tested below proficient in the spring of 2011, the most recent data available.

House Bill 487, a separate bill signed June 11, contains $13 million to help more children read on grade level.

The Ohio Department of Education has identified $52 million in funds it can redirect toward the program, said Richard Ross, one of Mr. Kasich's top education appointees.



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