COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lawmakers convened on Tuesday evening to hear proponent testimony for House Bill 117, which proposes to remove Ohio's third grade reading guarantee.

As it stands, the guarantee mandates third-grade students must attain a score of at least 685 on their reading test in order to progress to fourth grade.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, approximately 1% of third-grade students failed to meet the required threshold during the 2021-22 academic year.

What You Need To Know

  • Supporters of a bill aimed at removing Ohio's third grade reading guarantee testified on Tuesday
  • The guarantee mandates third-grade students must attain a score of at least 685 on their reading test in order to progress to fourth grade

  • The third grade reading guarantee has been in place in Ohio since 2012

The third-grade reading guarantee was implemented more than a decade ago, driven by former Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

The aim was to ensure students achieved reading proficiency before advancing to fourth grade.

Scott DeMauro, President of the Ohio Education Association, explained the guarantee was part of a larger national education reform movement that prioritized standardized testing.

In contrast, House Bill 117 aims to shift the focus away from standardized testing. 

"This idea of a top-down mandate requiring retention of students and taking that decision out of the hands of local teams was not good for kids," DeMauro said. 

The proposed bill would reduce the number of required English language arts standardized tests from two to one annually. It would also provide in-service training for teachers, emphasize the use of phonics, and mandate that school districts extend reading intervention services to include fourth and fifth grades.

Becky Hornberger, Executive Director of the Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators, lauds the bill as a significant step forward for students grappling with test anxiety. She asserts the existing system sends a detrimental message to young students who already feel marginalized within the school environment.

House Bill 117 envisions a more collaborative approach, with teachers and parents working together to formulate a tailored literacy plan for third-grade students. This bill would grant parents the autonomy to decide whether their child should be held back.

State Representative Gayle Manning, who sponsors the legislation, emphasized each student learns at their own pace. 

"Removing the high-stakes test nature of the third-grade English language assessment will allow teachers more time to provide interventions to students," Manning said.