Rekha Kohli, director of student and family services at Columbus Montessori Education Center, talks with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and First Lady Fran DeWine during a classroom visit about the science of reading on Aug. 10. (Photo by Megan Henry, Ohio Capital Journal.)

A chunk of Ohio’s two-year operating budget is going toward implementing the science of reading — $86 million for educator professional development, $64 million for curriculum and instructional materials, and $18 million for literacy coaches.

BY:  Ohio Capital Journal

Students arranged red and blue letters to spell various words such as “lip,” “twin,” and “keys.”

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and first lady Fran DeWine observed about two dozen children, ages 3-6, spelling words at Columbus Montessori Education Center Thursday morning.

The schools aligns with the science of reading, which is based on decades of research that shows how the human brain learns to read and incorporates phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

Soon all Ohio schools will align with the science of reading as a chunk of Ohio’s two-year operating budget goes towards implementation — $86 million for educator professional development, $64 million for curriculum and instructional materials, and $18 million for literacy coaches.

“There are many instructional methods out there, but the proven best way to teach reading is through the science of reading instruction,” DeWine said. “Reading is certainly the key that unlocks the door to so many, many things.”

DeWine said Ohio has committed $26 million in federal COVID related funding to pay for various materials and literacy coaches for non-public schools to align with the science of reading.

“Every student in the state should have the ability to follow the science of reading,” he said. “We want to make sure that no matter where a student goes to school, they have the best opportunity to learn to read.”

Next steps of implementation

 Photo by Megan Henry, Ohio Capital Journal. 

It’s not clear what each Ohio school district currently uses for their reading curriculum, so the Ohio Department of Education will soon be sending out a survey to school districts to gather information that information, said Chris Woolard, interim superintendent of public instruction.

“Any Ohio school that is not already using a curriculum that is aligned with this proven method will begin aligning to it this school year,” DeWine said.

ODE will also come up with a list of curriculum and instructional materials that line up with the science of reading. Under the budget, Ohio schools have to start using those learning materials by the 2024-25 school year.

The budget funds 100 literacy coaches who will help public schools with the lowest level of proficiency in literacy based on their performance in the state’s English language arts assessment. While the coaches are going to be under the direction of ODE, they won’t be employed by the department.

“I don’t know that 100 is enough, candidly,” DeWine said. “From what we’ve seen as we’ve traveled around the state, coaches are just vitally important in the area of literacy.”

Teacher prep programs

The science of reading budget goes beyond K-12 schools. It also requires the Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor to create an audit process that documents how every educator training program aligns with teaching the science of reading instruction. The audit must be completed with summaries publicly released by March 31.

The Chancellor will also be able to rescind the approval of educator training programs that don’t align with teaching the science of reading instruction a year after the initial audit, and programs would be evaluated every four years.

“The challenge is many teachers were not taught this way through no fault of their own they were not taught that way. This is a big chance for many teachers, classrooms and schools. It’s not going to be done overnight,” DeWine said.

Statewide tour

DeWine visited about a dozen Ohio schools in the spring that align with the science of reading and often touted these statistics during the budget process — 40% of Ohio’s third-graders are not proficient in reading and 33% of third graders were not proficient in reading before COVID-19.

 COLUMBUS, Ohio — APRIL 06: Second grade teacher Bernadette Monroe talks to her students during a visit by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Principal Miracle Reynolds (left), and Interim Superintendent/CEO of Columbus City Schools, Dr. Angela Chapman, to observe the implementation of the Science of Reading program, April 6, 2023, at Southwood Elementary School in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original article.) 

During those tours, a conversation with a particular high school student stood out to him the most.

“The student basically said, ‘They gave up on me. I didn’t think I could ever read, but the interventional specialist started working with me and started using the science of reading and I can now read’,” DeWine said.

An 8-minute video on ODE’s website shows highlights from DeWine’s tour.

“It’s proven that (the science of reading) works and that it produces better readers. It’s literally like a road map to reading,” Arnita Washington, a kindergarten teacher at Warrensville Heights Elementary in Cuyahoga County said in the video.

Students said during the video they feel confident to break down new words.

“Your brain is putting this into your working memory, so you can apply this later when you come to words that you don’t know,” Ohio Department of Education Literacy Chief Melissa Weber-Mayrer said during the video.

Follow OCJ Reporter Megan Henry on Twitter.

Megan Henry

Megan Henry is a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal and has spent the past five years reporting in Ohio on various topics including education, healthcare, business and crime. She previously worked at The Columbus Dispatch, part of the USA Today Network.


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