TOLEDO, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine revealed alarming information about our next generation during his State of the State address Tuesday, saying that 40% of third graders across Ohio are not reading at proficient levels.
The governor committed to using a portion of the state budget to try to help bump up that number. WTOL 11 talked to local school leaders to get a look at what's already being done to bring kids up to speed.
Those leaders say COVID-19 had a massive impact on elementary students.
It took them out of school during lockdown, and that's has negative affects on test scores, attendance and reading comprehension.
But leaders say they're taking steps to get the kids back on track.
Jim Gault, executive transformational leader of curriculum and instruction at Toledo Public Schools, said district third graders are even further behind as only 40% of students are meeting the required reading comprehension levels of the State's third-grade guarantee.
"Now the good news is that has increased quite a bit from the COVID lows," Gault said. "We do believe we're on the right track, but obviously we are still dealing with the impact of COVID and what it had on our students."
He said missed attendance is still a major factor preventing that number from rising, calling it a long-term product of COVID fatigue.
"Obviously if they're missing school every day, they're missing an opportunity to learn," Gault said.
Gault said it's not just Toledo Public Schools; it's happening across the country. And now they're trying new educational tactics to make sure every day is maximized.
"We have implemented a new reading curriculum across our district that we believe will assist with that, and we have tutoring and intervention that's happening in our schools," he said.
TPS isn't the only school system affected by the COVID reading gap.
Springfield Local Schools is also implementing a new reading framework to meet the issue, focusing on helping kids sound out the words instead of forcing them to guess.
It's all part of the LETTRS program. LETTRS stands for Language Essentials for the Teaching of Reading and Spelling.
Taryn Miley with Springfield Schools said it requires a rigorous two-year course for teachers, but it should make reading easier than ever for students.
Right now it's only being used at the kindergarten and first grade levels, but early reactions have been positive.
"For students, they're excited because they're saying, 'I'm a reader now. I can sound out the words,'" Miley said.
Miley said those early results have convinced the school district to begin implementing the program in second and third grade classrooms as well starting this fall.
She hopes the governor's focus is on more cutting-edge programs like this one as he allocates that state funding.