The No Child Left Behind federal school reform law has been a dismal failure in many ways. One is that, with its focus on adequate yearly progress at schools, it left too many individual children behind.
Ohio is among states that have received waivers freeing it from having to comply with most NCLB rules. Instead, the state is substituting what many consider to be more realistic standards.
A package of them is contained in a new school reform bill signed into law a few days ago by Gov. John Kasich. Popularly known as Senate Bill 316, the statute includes a variety of reforms, including some that target low-performing teachers.
One of the law's most important provisions may turn out to be unpopular among some parents. It is the stipulation that public school students who are not reading at appropriate levels can be held back in third grade for as many as two years while their reading skills are improved. The law requires such students be given intensive help to improve reading ability.
For several years, Ohio has used proficiency testing to measure students' skills in various subjects. The idea has been that if certain percentages of students do not achieve "proficient" scores, efforts must be made to improve the quality of instruction in certain subjects.
Throughout Ohio, teachers and principals worry about children who don't read well. But the new law requires them to take decisive action.
Refusing to promote a child out of third grade until he or she can read at an age-appropriate level sounds drastic - and some parents will not be happy about such action. But focusing on children who lack the basic skill needed to learn other subjects, and doing so at an early age, is an excellent idea - if pursued vigorously.