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The 3rd Grade Reading Promotion Crisis

July 24, 2017

 Some state officials claim that the students caught up in this problem may be “marginally” proficient and therefore could benefit from the additional intervention in the retention programs. They also argue that the mid-term promotion option will take care of most of the current misalignment problem. This reasoning, while largely true, fails to recognize the social and emotional impact on the individual students and their families.

The 3rd Grade Reading Guarantee is no guarantee at all. There is significant research that shows that for many students their performance on the 3rd Grade Reading Guarantee is not a valid predictor of their later academic success. Then there are many issues around the kinds of intervention practices that are employed to address reading deficiencies. There is no clear prescription for reading intervention, and many districts simply do not have the resources to provide what they believe is appropriate.

Just as there is no level playing field in school funding, there is not level field in a district’s capacity to provide the needed reading intervention.

What needs to happen? The Department of Education needs to immediately initiate a “linking” study with the test vendors. If there is evidence of a serious misalignment between the state reading test and the four state approved alternative tests, then a study to determine appropriate cut scores for the alternative tests should be completed as soon as possible.

There is ample anecdotal evidence that this is indeed a statewide problem that has ensnared thousands of third graders across Ohio. Columbus City Schools has over 500 third graders retained unfairly. The accountability heads of several of the largest urban districts in the state have compared student performance data and concluded that they are experiencing the same problem.

Please share this information with all parents and family members of students caught in this mess. They should contact both their legislators and members of the State Board of Education, as well as Ohio Education Supt. Paolo DeMaria, to express their frustration and disappointment – they also need to ask Supt. DeMaria what he plans to do to fix this major problem.

Find legislator contact info here:

Contact state BOE members:

Email Supt. DeMaria at or better yet, call him at 877-644-6338 to demand an immediate solution.


Thanks to PEP Board member Russ Harris for creating this important call-to-action!

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Melissa’s Story

I am Melissa Marini Švigelj-Smith, a parent activist from Cleveland who’s very concerned about excessive testing- so concerned that I spoke to the Board of Education of the Cleveland Metropolitan Schools and requested that the board adopt a policy that accommodates families who refuse to allow their children to participate in high stakes standardized tests. Without hesitation, I conveyed this sincere message to the Board:

As evidenced by the easy passage of the last school levy, this community and its parents support Cleveland schools, and that respect and support deserves consistent reciprocity. I don’t believe that I need to rehash recent media reports in order to justify bringing attention to this issue.

As I briefly share some reasons why families have refused to allow their children to participate in high stakes standardized tests, I hope that you will consider adopting a policy that is respectful and supportive of families who express the desire to direct their children’s education, as protected by the 14th amendment.

This is why we refuse…

Because children should not have to attend a school labeled “failing,” or labeled anything at all.

School buildings shelter children with vast amounts of untapped potential. Not failures.

FAILURE should never be the name of a monster hovering over a school building making children afraid of how they will do on a test.

Children shouldn’t have to be afraid of how their teacher will be hurt by their performance on a test.

Or how their school or community or city will be labeled because of how they do on a test.

What sort of sane society that supposedly cherishes its children puts that sort of pressure on a child?

We refuse because without the data, they can’t label our children or anyone else’s children.

We refuse…

Because we know that standardized test scores have only been good at proving one thing: children’s life experiences and backgrounds far outweigh the impact that a school or teacher has on their test performance.

We refuse…

Because we don’t want our children’s privacy violated, and we don’t want test companies profiting from our children.

Because we know that things like art, music, gym, and recess have been shown by research to increase academic success and shouldn’t be reduced or eliminated because kids need to take or prepare for more standardized tests.

We refuse…

Because we know that the emotional and social growth of children in school is not measured on a standardized test.

Because the teacher who delivers groceries to a family in need, advocates for a student, or becomes a student’s confidant, counselor, or role model will never have that data show up in test results, and we trust our children’s teachers to assess their progress.

We refuse…

Because struggling students should not be made to feel like less than the developing human beings that we ALL started out as, because tests are used to label.

We know that the long term consequences of labeling and retention are profound.

NONE of our children are “limited,” “basic,” or “common.”

Words that label can and do. Hurt and Divide.

We refuse…

Because over 2000 education researchers, experts, and professionals signed a letter pleading with our President and Congress to stop relying on high stakes standardized testing to improve education – we have a decade of data proving that it doesn’t work.

Because there are mountains of research that provide more effective and research proven methods to educate our children and to evaluate teachers and schools.

We refuse…

Because when we look at our children, we see their smiles, their talents, their goofiness, the crumbs around their mouths, the dirt on their skin, and the hope in their eyes.

And when we look at our kids,

We never see them as data or test scores…

And neither should you.

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