Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of accompanying Governor Kasich to Cincinnati for the signing of legislation that will make significant changes to Ohio's educational landscape. Senate Bill 316, passed by the state legislature in May with a bipartisan vote, contains a number of provisions that will enhance the quality of education for Ohio's students. The most publicized provision of the bill is the third grade reading guarantee. Recent studies have shown that third graders reading below grade level are four times more likely than their peers to not graduate from high school. In order to better prepare our children for scholastic success, schools will now be required to assess the reading progress of all students from kindergarten through the second grade. By relying on early detection, educators will be able to pinpoint the individual areas in which a certain student appears to be struggling and provide the required intervention services. Those children who continue to struggle with reading skills will be retained in third grade and receive the additional help they need for future academic success. Rather than automatically promoting a child based on age, students will now be promoted based on skills. The effort to bring Ohio's classrooms into the 21st century greatly depends on incorporating all of the educational opportunities before us. Technological advancements have redefined the way our children learn, and Senate Bill 316 includes provisions to allow our schools to take full advantage of the new world of digital learning. The legislation recognizes the opportunities that technology can bring to the classroom, specifically more individualized learning and access to resources previously unavailable to our students. These new and exciting avenues for learning will not only assist our teachers in their everyday lessons, but will open whole new worlds to our students. Recognizing the importance of education for all of our children, the bill addresses the growing need to create job opportunities for students with developmental disabilities. It is estimated that 40 percent of developmentally disabled individuals live below the poverty line. Clearly, action is greatly needed to combat such an intolerable statistic. With that said, a task force will be formed through Ohio's Employment First initiative to identify and promote quality employment opportunities for residents with developmental disabilities. Work goals will be added to the individual education plans (IEP) of students with disabilities so that they will become better prepared for future employment. The efforts to enrich the lives of our young people and ensure quality education for all are ongoing ones. However, in order for any real measure of improvement to be realized, we must work vigorously and collaboratively. I remain committed to working on behalf of Ohio's children and families to ensure that our classrooms are places for rich learning and innovation. I am confident that the reforms found in Senate Bill 316 will serve as good building blocks for future success. Your thoughts and ideas are important to me and, as always, I ask that you contact my office regarding the issues facing Ohio. I can be reached by phone at (614) 466-4538, by e-mail at Lehner@ohiosenate.gov or by writing State Senator Peggy Lehner, Ohio Statehouse, One Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 43215. I look forward to hearing from you.
Senator Lehner represents Ohio's 6th Senate District which includes a portion of Montgomery County. She currently serves as Chairwoman for the Senate Education Committee.
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