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Columbus Schools Adapt To Reading Guarantee

The Columbus City Schools are taking steps to address the issue of grade-reading readiness, and to come into compliance with the state's third grade reading guarantee. 

Under a proposal expected to be approved this week, the district is moving the benchmark from fourth grade to third grade, and superintendent Gene Harris says the effort to identify problems is starting even earlier.

GH: At kindergarten level, obviously we are doing everything we can to accelerate our students, to make sure they are reading-ready, that they have letter and number recognition, that they have numeric recognition, all of those things.  We encourage differentiated instruction; small group instruction in first grade, we already have some intensive tutoring for first grade students who are already falling behind... as well as at kindergarten. And we will continue to capitalize on that as well as the other interventions in expanding reading recovery.

Under the new policy, third graders who cannot read at grade level will not advance to the next grade. There are some exceptions, however -- including students who have received intensive intervention and have already been held back a grade. Harris says studies show holding a child back is not always the best course, although she says those decisions need to be made on an individual basis.

GH: There could be the decision to promote the child, and you know, that decision also needs to based on what's going to happen going forward.  So it doesn't mean that just because they've had two years of intensive intervention or been retained, doesn't mean that the intervention won't continue.  And I really like to think of it as  acceleration rather than intervention -- what can we do to speed up the child's pace of learning.

The new policy relies on intensive intervention like tutoring and small group work to help students improve their reading skills. Finding the resources for that are increasingly difficult in the cash-strapped district. Harris says the schools are working with Ohio State University, studying successful strategies from other districts, and reallocating staff and money.




A native of Chicago, naturalized citizen of Cincinnati and resident of Columbus, Alison attended Earlham College and the Ohio State University. She has equal passion for Midwest history, hockey and Slavic poetry.