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State Spotlight: Rising Literacy Achievement in Ohio

• Cari Miller

Approximately five year old African American girl reading with approximately five year old Caucasian girl with blonde hair in library.

Learning to read by the end of third grade is the gateway to lifelong success. When students are not able to read by the end of third grade, their risk of falling behind grows exponentially. That’s why Ohio established a comprehensive K-3 reading policy in 2012 called the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. The Guarantee ensures a comprehensive literacy approach starting as early as Kindergarten, so all students read on grade level by the end of third grade. Specifically, the law:

  1. Established diagnostic early literacy assessments identifying students who need additional help;
  2. Ensures individual reading improvement plans are developed, in collaboration with parents, which prescribe the specialized support and intensive interventions that will be provided until the deficiency is remedied; and
  3. Ensures third graders demonstrate sufficient reading skills on the state standardized assessment or an alternative assessment of reading for promotion to fourth grade.

Improving literacy statewide and supports for educators

Since enactment, the Ohio Department of Education has been busy initiating plans to improve literacy statewide and supports for educators. To name a few:

  • Established Ohio’s State Systemic Improvement Plan focused on PreK-3 literacy
  • Provided 17 Regional Early Literacy Specialists to directly support districts with implementing evidence-based literacy strategies in PreK-grade 3
  • Awarded two grants from the U.S. Department of Education:
    • The State Personnel Development Grant focused on building system-level support for the implementation of evidence-based K-5 literacy practices
    • Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Grant focused on increasing literacy outcomes birth to grade 12 by implementing evidence-based language and literacy strategies aligned to the science of reading
  • Created two Ohio Literacy Leads who develop and deliver professional learning focused on systems change in order to effectively implement evidence-based literacy strategies birth to grade 12
  • Published its first Plan to Raise Literacy Achievement
  • In 2018, held its first Literacy Academy supporting the Simple View of Reading and developing high quality local literacy plans, and this year held the second Literacy Academy focused on the Science of Reading birth to grade 12

Thanks to the trifecta of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, additional state action to prioritize literacy, and teacher supports, Ohio’s third graders are soaring!

Ohio doesn’t plan to stop here

Roughly 33 percent of third-grade students are still not proficient according to Ohio’s State Assessment of English Language Arts. The Buckeye state must continue to keep their eye on the prize. Fortunately for Ohio students, the Department was awarded the Comprehensive Literacy State Development Grant, which provides $42 million over five years to establish model literacy sites across Ohio in preschools, elementary, middle and high schools to focus on implementing practices consistent with Ohio’s Plan to Raise Literacy Achievement. The grant will also support professional learning and coaching to ensure all teachers have the knowledge and skill to teach all students to read.

In addition, Ohio received the Model Demonstration Projects for Early Identification of Students with Dyslexia Grant which provides $1.2 million over four years and aims to improve the literacy of students with — or at risk for — dyslexia. This grant will support pilot programs to address the literacy needs of students in three model schools (preschool through grade 1).

These grants will support the state’s continued priority on literacy to ensure all students are set up on a path to learn, graduate and succeed. I can’t wait to see the impact of this work on student reading achievement! Keep up the great work, Ohio!

About the author

Cari Miller

Cari Miller serves as Policy Director of Early Literacy for ExcelinEd. She works hand in hand with states pursuing a comprehensive approach to K-3 reading policy, and she supports state departments with effective policy implementation. Cari is a former elementary teacher and reading coach. She also served as the Deputy Director of Just Read, Florida!, Governor Jeb Bush’s statewide literacy initiative. At Just Read, Florida!, she served in other capacities, including: Elementary Reading Specialist, Director of Reading First and Director of Elementary Reading. Her sole mission is to improve student reading achievement across the nation.