NYC Scraps 3rd Grade Guarantee As Ohio Adopts It–Based on ALEC Model Law

In September of 2012, according to Ohio’s Plunderbund, Ohio’s then acting state superintendent of public instruction, Michael Sawyers claimed that Ohio’s new 3rd Grade Guarantee will help Ohio’s children.  After all, Governor John Kasich has consistently alleged that children behind in reading by third grade are more likely to drop out of school than stronger readers.

Sawyers extolled the 3rd Grade Guarantee as a dropout prevention program that will primarily support students who have fallen behind in Ohio’s poorest urban school districts.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the percentage of children projected to be held back in third grade at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year across Ohio’s urban districts is:  Youngstown, 59.8 percent; Cleveland, 57.8 percent; East Cleveland, 57.2 percent; Warren, 55 percent; Warrensville Heights, 54.1 percent; Euclid, 52.1 percent; Lorain, 51.3 percent; Columbus, 49.3 percent; and Dayton, 47.7 percent.

Contrary to Kasich’s and Sawyers’ belief that the 3rd Grade Guarantee will lower the dropout rate, this blog has covered a mass of expert research demonstrating that repeating a grade is not only unlikely to improve reading but also very likely to result in students dropping out later as they become over-age in grade during adolescence.

Expert research, however,  hasn’t stopped the American Legislative Exchange Council from developing and distributing across the legislatures of the 50 states model legislation to require that children pass the standardized reading test before they can be promoted to fourth grade.  The Ohio law taking effect in 2014 is a replica of ALEC’s model legislation.  According to Chapter 7, Section 2 (C) of the ALEC model law, “Beginning with the 20XX-20XY school year, if the student’s reading deficiency, as identified in paragraph (a), is not remedied by the end of grade 3, as demonstrated by scoring at Level 2 or higher on the state annual accountability assessment in reading for grade 3, the student must be retained.”

Norm Fruchter is a new member of New York City’s Panel for Educational Policy (New York City’s mayoral-appointed school board) and principal associate at  Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform (located in New York City).  Writing for Gotham Gazette, Fruchter reports that ten years ago, “Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein announced a new student promotion policy based on retention—holding students back in the 3rd grade based on their New York State test results.  Fruchter reports that Mayor Bloomberg “trumpeted this tough love approach” despite that it “generated a maelstrom of protest.”

According to Fruchter, two years ago, in June of 2012, Mayor Bloomberg and Dennis Walcott, then chancellor, quietly scrapped New York’s 3rd grade retention program by granting “principals discretion to promote 3rd through 7th graders who’d been held back multiple times or were significantly over-age for their grade—a covert admission that the get-tough policy wasn’t working.”

Fruchter celebrates the decision earlier this month by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new Chancellor, Carmen Farina, as this blog covered here, formally to rewrite grade promotion policy by considering “the integrated use of multiple criteria equivalent to an achievement portfolio,” with standardized test scores as only one factor in the decision.  “Thanks to this advance, the New York City school system now has the opportunity not only to restore sanity to promotion/retention decisions, but to tackle the core questions of how best to assess our students’ academic achievement and, most important, how to improve their outcomes.”

I wonder if it will take Ohio’s politicians ten years to recognize the error of the new 3rd Grade Guarantee now being implemented through the adoption of ALEC’s model legislation?