Law imperils TPS’ 3rd graders

Reading-test scores could hold 50% of them back for a year


About half of Toledo Public Schools’ third graders are in danger of being held back under a new state retention law.

The Ohio Department of Education released test results Friday of third-grade students who took state exams this fall.

Under the state’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee law, students who can’t score above a certain level would be kept in third grade another year.

The data released Friday do not state specifically how many students would have scored below the retention level.

But rough estimates probably would show about a third of students statewide missed the mark on their first try.

Students are tested again in the spring on the Ohio Achievement Assessments, and there are some exemptions to the retention rule.

State education officials discussed the results with reporters Thursday, arguing the law would force schools to address literacy deficiencies early, before students became disillusioned or discouraged with school.

“I think it’s beyond urgent that we address this issue,” state Superintendent Richard Ross said.

Data provided by the state Friday showed only 36.7 percent of TPS students scored above the proficient level on the fall reading exams. The score for promotion, though, is slightly below proficient, so that data wouldn’t show how many students already had earned promotion to the fourth grade.

Data provided to the district by the state education department showed about a 50-50 split in TPS students who did not meet the benchmark for promotion to fourth grade, TPS Superintendent Romules Durant said.

That data, he said, are a baseline the district can use to determine which students need help, and in what literacy concepts.

Intervention plans are in place, Mr. Durant said, with a program called Reading Academy Intensive Support Education planned for schools that need the most help.

A core element of that program is reciprocal teaching, where students and teachers analyze stories together.

The concept has led to improved test scores in TPS schools that have implemented it.

The Toledo district scored lower than suburban neighbors, a trend seen across the state. That’s not surprising, Mr. Durant said.

Academic achievement correlates to socioeconomic status. Urban areas across the country struggle with much the same challenges.

“I think what is more concerning is that this is a national problem,” he said.

Those struggles are why Mr. Durant said he has pushed hard for TPS to take part in a $12 million federal Head Start grant, to help develop an early childhood education system that prepares students for school.

“If you wait until third grade, it’s too late,” he said. “The best intervention is prevention.”

Students who don’t pass the tests in the spring could be promoted to fourth grade if they show improvement over the summer. And students who show sufficient achievement in other subjects, such as math, can take fourth-grade-level courses while they receive remediation in reading.

Students can be promoted midyear if they show their reading skills have caught up to fourth-grade levels.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.