CINCINNATI - The State of Ohio on Monday put an end to social promotions for third graders who can't read at their grade level. They'll either have to perform up to expectations or get help they need to keep up with their classmates.
The "Third Grade Reading Guarantee" was part of Senate Bill 316, which was signed into law by Ohio Gov. John Kasich at the Fifth-Third Bank Operations Center in Madisonville.
Other provisions in the legislation include:
- Career Connection -- Refocusing On Career Paths
- Going Digital
- More Flexibility for Teacher Evaluation
- New Standards for Dropout Recovery Schools
- Assessing All Early Childhood Programs
Gov. Kasich said no one item is more important than another, but acknowledged that reading in the early grades is the foundation for all academic achievement.
"In the early years, kids have to learn to read because in the later years they have to read to learn," Gov. Kasich said. "If you can't read, you might as well forget it."
The governor said the measure is not designed to be punitive.
"What we're trying to do is say if you're in the third grade and you can't read, if we push you to the fourth grade it's like pushing somebody into the deep water who doesn't know how to swim," he said. "The real question is if we're not teaching them to read, what are we teaching them?"
Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus of New Richmond said parents have to share the responsibility for helping their students as well.
"If they're concerned about the reading skills of their child, they can go get a book, sit down, read with them and work with them," he said.
At Rothenberg Preparatory Academy in Mount Auburn, Principal Alesia Smith was already at work mapping out the curriculum for the start of classes in the fall.
"We are already ready to be prepared to make sure our kids are ready to go onto the next grade," she said. "Our kids are getting 90-minutes of reading every day already. We've been allowed to have tutors to kind of help with that."
Smith said Senate BIll 316 will put extra pressure on her staff to perform at a high level. However, she cautioned that anytime you look at a piece of legislation, you have to remember that the people it affects -- the children -- are human beings.
"What if you've been sick most of the year or there's some homelessness involved," she wondered. "Where is the leeway for those circumstances that my third grade child has no control over."
She acknowledged that her staff will do whatever it takes to help children succeed.
"If it's going to be opportunities to look at instruction again and make sure we do the things that we're supposed to do, we're all open for that, but I think it's going to be a lot more pressure, which we already have," she added.
Watching the signing ceremony were a dozen young men and women sporting bright blue shirts. They were all members of a group called INTERalliance, whose founder is determined to stop the technology brain-drain from the Cincinnati area.
"Back in 2005, the Wall Street Journal credited Cincinnati with having the worst exodus of 19-30 year olds anywhere in the nation," said Doug Arthur, the organization's Executive Director.
That was enough for Arthur and others to start INTERalliance to try and reverse that trend. Students were aggressively recruited for their interest in business technology jobs. Expos, summer camps and internships were set up to provide opportunities. Virtually every major Cincinnati corporation is now involved.
It appears to be working.
Megan Pope of Covedale joined the group in 2010 while she was a sophomore at Mother of Mercy High School in Westwood. She thought she wanted a career in engineering, but changed to information technology after being in INTERalliance.
Pope starts classes this fall at the the University of Cincinnati Lindner College of Business instead of leaving Greater Cincinnati for college.
"My choice of a major was a direct result of my involvement with the INTERalliance of Greater Cincinnati," she said. "I didn't know it existed and everything that I think I'm good at was a perfect match for what this program is trying to do."
Kyle Gundrum's intention was to head to the West Coast after graduating from Summit Country Day School. However, that was before INTERalliance appeared on his radar screen. He's now enrolled at the University of Cincinnati as an information technology major.
"I was definitely California-bound -- get away from the parents," he said. "But, after learning about all of the opportunities here in Cincinnati, which I completely credit to INTERalliance, I would have honestly felt stupid to leave."
That's music to the ears of Gov. Kasich who continues to explore ways of keeping young professionals in the Buckeye State. He wants more emphasis placed on helping students find their passion for a career early in life.
"The earlier we find it, the more we will be riveted towards learning the kinds of things in academics that