Northridge’s changed approach to reading would mirror what DeWine wants to see across Ohio

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Ohio governor visits Northridge to see implementation of science of reading approach.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine visited Northridge Schools Thursday to see the results of implementing the science of reading in the district.

Under the governor’s current budget plan, all schools would be mandated to use a science-backed reading approach. Ohio does not currently mandate how schools teach reading.

This school year, Northridge fully implemented a new science of reading curriculum, Superintendent Dave Jackson said. Previously, the district used a whole language approach.

In curriculums based in the science of reading, the emphasis is on phonics and teaching skills to identify words. Whole language focuses on using speaking, writing and sounds to teach children to read, whereas the science of reading uses neuroscience.

Jackson said the district started this school year with 28% of kindergarten students on track for reading, and as of March 13, 73% of those students were on track. In the 2018-2019 school year, by the end of the school year, 46% of kindergarten students were on track.

Statewide, literacy achievement is down. In the 2021-22 school year, 59.8% of third grade students tested proficient in reading, while in the 2018-19 school year — the last one before the pandemic — 66.7% of third-graders tested proficient in reading. Proficient means that a student can read the words and understand what they mean.

Jackson said DeWine was at Northridge to see what his budget proposal would do.

“It means a lot, to be a model for what the governor wants to do across the state of Ohio,” Jackson said.

He credited the hard work of the teachers and staff at the district for switching over from whole language to the science of reading.

He said the district used grants and resources from the State Support Team region 10, Montgomery County Educational Service Center, Learn to Earn Dayton, Wright State University, consultants and more.

The district also uses consistent assessments to track where students are, and a group of intervention specialists meets weekly to make sure students are achieving.

In the second-grade classroom DeWine visited on Thursday, a second-grade teacher worked alongside an intervention specialist.

“At Northridge, they are doing an absolutely phenomenal job,” DeWine said after his visit. “If you look at where they were a few years ago, compared to where they are today, they’ve just gone straight up.”

While many districts, like Northridge, have recently flipped their curriculums, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic and the drop in literacy achievement, there are still those who oppose DeWine’s proposal.

Many teachers were trained in whole language and have to relearn how to teach with the science-based curriculums. While many local schools have already switched curriculums to science of reading, those who have not yet done so would need to purchase new books and retrain their teachers.

Ohio teachers’ unions have also pushed back on the proposal, mostly to ask for a voice for teachers at the table and to figure out what the potential impact on teachers could be.

On Thursday, DeWine also signed an executive order to create the Governor’s Literacy Challenge to improve reading proficiency for Ohio’s children.

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