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OEA calls for end of mandatory retention under ‘Third Grade Reading Guarantee’

Paul L. Thomas, Department of Education

Last updated October 12, 2022

By Tina Underwood, Contributing Writer

The Ohio Education Association wants lawmakers to rescind a requirement for third graders to pass a standardized reading assessment lest they be held back a year to repeat the third grade. To help bolster its case, the union, representing about 20,000 school teachers, turned to Furman University’s Paul Thomas, an education professor, who prepared a white paper for OEA in response to Ohio’s “Third Grade Reading Guarantee.” He, other consultants and members of the OEA believe the retention policy impacts minority and poor students at higher levels than other students, and does little, if anything, toward enhancing reading proficiency.

In The Highland County Press, Thomas said, “Grade retention distorts test data, disproportionately impacts and punishes vulnerable populations of students, and creates a distraction from reading reform’s ultimate goal of increased student reading proficiency.”

“[Third graders] are struggling with racism, poverty, a number of things beyond their control,” Thomas pointed out in Public News Service. “And grade retention piles on negative consequences to those students without adding any value to their reading experience,” he added.

“Grade retention is actually a punitive approach. It is not an approach to reading. And I would strongly advocate for focusing reading policy on actual reading and not punishing our students,” Thomas said in an article from The Statehouse News Bureau.

The news also appeared in WHIO TV 7 (via Yahoo News), Tribune Chronicle, WKBN 27, Sunny 95, Gongwer (subscription required), ABC affiliate WEWS News 5, WOSU 89.7 and Springfield News-Sun.

Thomas, who taught English many years in rural South Carolina before transitioning to teacher education, is author of “A Critical Examination of Grade Retention as Reading Policy.”



Last updated October 12, 2022
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