House Bill (HB) 33, Ohio’s budget bill, contains several provisions related to reading instruction and screening students with dyslexia. The changes significantly alter districts’ obligations to students in the area of reading instruction.

Third grade reading guarantee

Perhaps the most significant change related to reading is the removal of the mandatory retention requirement in the third-grade reading guarantee. The law requires each school district to assess the reading skills of all third-grade students to ensure that they have reached a designated level of achievement in English language arts. Prior to HB 33, districts were generally required, with some exceptions, to retain such students who failed to reach the designated level of achievement and have them repeat third grade with additional reading supports and interventions. HB 33 adds a new provision whereby a student’s parents, in consultation with the child’s teachers and principal, can request that the child be promoted to fourth grade despite not reaching the requisite level of achievement in reading.

Students who are promoted to the fourth grade under the new parent-request provision are entitled to receive the intensive reading services and supports that would be provided to students who are retained pursuant to the guarantee. The law also specifies that these intervention services must be aligned with the new science of reading provisions described below. The bill also adds a new requirement that students who require these intensive reading services will additionally receive “high-dosage tutoring opportunities aligned with the student's classroom instruction through a state-approved vendor … or a locally approved opportunity that aligns with high-dosage tutoring best practices.” These opportunities “shall include additional instruction time of at least three days per week, or at least fifty hours over thirty-six weeks.”

Science of reading

HB 33 also adds some new requirements for materials used for reading instruction for all students, as well as some new professional development requirements for all teachers. These are centered around the concept of providing materials and instructions that align with “the science of reading,” which is defined under the new law as an interdisciplinary, evidence-based approach to reading instruction. The newly created Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) will be required to establish a list of approved materials aligned to the science of reading. Beginning with the 2024-25 school year, districts will be required to utilize reading instructional materials only from this list. The law directs DEW to subsidize the cost for schools and districts required to purchase new materials to comply with the law.

The law will further require all teaching staff to receive professional development in the area of the science of reading and reading interventions. Teachers will receive stipends for completing the professional development, to be reimbursed by DEW. DEW will further be required to identify vendors who will provide the professional development. The law also bans the use of the “three-cuing approach” to reading instruction unless it is required by the individualized education program (IEP) of a student with a disability or a waiver is obtained.

Dyslexia screening

HB 33 also adds a new requirement that districts administer a tier-one dyslexia screening to any student in grades K-3 who transfer into a district midyear for the 2023-24 school year. These screenings will also be required for students in grades 4-6 whose parents request such screening or whose classroom teachers request such screening, if their parents grant permission. For the 2024-25 school year and beyond, the screening will be required for any kindergarten student who transfers midyear and for any students in grades 1-6 whose parents request it or whose teachers request it and whose parents grant permission. These will not be required if there is evidence in the child’s record that they have already received such screening that school year.

Like most other provisions of the budget bill, these provisions will go into effect on October 3, 2023. Please feel free to contact the legal division with any questions about these or other provisions of the budget bill.

Posted by John R. Price on 8/11/2023