As professionals we do a good job preparing lessons, scouring the web for new and innovative ideas, and following new state standards. We are always open to improve what we do in our own particular grade level—to a fault. We are so busy keeping up, we fail to take notice of what is not about “us,” or our grade level. Please indulge me and read my article even though you may not teach a world language at the elementary level.
Are you aware of Ohio’s Senate Bill 316? It is called “The Third Grade Reading Guarantee.” In a nutshell Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee says that “starting with students entering third grade in 2013-14, schools cannot promote to fourth grade students who score below a certain level on the state reading test” (http://stateimpact.npr.org/ohio/tag/third-grade-reading-guarantee/).
This is huge for all elementary school teachers and especially for those of us that teach a world language at the elementary level via IMMERSION, FLES, FLEX, or through special after school programs. We are sweating bullets! For us that means our elementary world language programs could be in danger of ceasing to exist or modified to such a degree they will have little impact on second language acquisition at the elementary level.
If “early language learning” programs are watered down or taken away at the elementary level, that could impact the number students entering high school world language programs. Many students continue taking languages in high school because of the positive experiences they’ve had at the elementary level.
Now, SB316 does not say districts need to remove early language learning programs. But you know fear has a way of bending the minds of those who lead our districts…“How are we going to get these kids to pass? What should we take out? Let’s do more reading, reading, and reading!! No more gym, art, music…let’s eat and read…no more lunch periods, no more recess, all kids will wear pull ups…no time to go to the bathroom! Raise those test scores, no matter what it takes! Just read, read, read!” (Head ‘em up, move ‘em out, Rawhide!)
As OFLA’s Early Language Learning chair I ask that you take a moment and write a brief letter to Ohio’s State Board of Education and ask that they consider waiving the Third Grade Reading Guarantee for immersion and partial immersion schools in the state. Tell them that there is a lot of research that supports the benefits of an immersion education and documentation of how immersion learners overcome their English reading lag to surpass their monolingual peers by 4th or 5th grade. Tell them why high school world language programs are positively impacted by students that come in having taken part in elementary world language programs.
And really, who gave the State Board of Education POWER to make such a ludicrous guarantee? As educators we know there is so much more to teaching and learning than meets the eye. So many factors come into play such as attendance, homelessness, and abuse! But then again, I am preaching to the choir. The reality truly is that as human beings the only guarantee we have in life, is death, not passing Ohio’s Third Grade Reading test!
Write them, please:
Debe Terhar, Board president, Debe.Terhar@education.ohio.gov
James Herrholtz, Associate Superintendent, Division of Learning, James.Herrholtz@education.ohio.gov
Sasheen Philips, Senior Executive Director, Center for Curriculum and Assessment, Sasheen.Philips@education.ohio.gov
James Wright, Director, Office of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment , James.Wright@education.ohio.gov