The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.carry.casket
    CARRYING—Riley Terry (blue jacket) and Mason Vaughn lead the way, carrying an empty casket outside to the hearse waiting at the curb. Morenci juniors and seniors visited Eagle Funeral Home last week to learn about the role of a funeral director and to understand the process of arranging for a funeral.
  • Front.lift
    MORENCI student Dalton McCowan puts everything into a dead lift attempt Saturday morning during the Wyseguy Push/Pull event. Lifters helped raise more than $1,600 for the family of the late Devin Wyse, a former Morenci power-lifter who graduated last year. Commemorative T-shirts are still available by contacting teacher Dan Hoffman.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.F.office
    NEW OFFICES—Fayette village administrator Steve Blue speaks with tax administrator Genna Biddix at the new front desk of the village office. Village council members voted to use budgeted renovation funds targeted for the old office and instead buy the vacant bank building on the corner of Main and Fayette streets. The old office was sold to Sherwood State Bank. When everything is put into place in the spacious new village office, an open house will be scheduled. Council member David Wheeler donated all of his time needed to make changes in the bank interior to fit the Village’s needs.

Ohio's Third Grade Promise 2012.10.31

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Parents of Fayette's kindergarten through third grade students should have received a letter from elementary school principal/superintendent Erik Belcher this week, informing them of the progress their student is making in reading skills.

Parents were notified their student is either "on track" or "not on track" to meet state standards—standards with big consequences. Through the new Third Grade Reading Promise from Ohio Gov. John Kasich and legislators, students must attain a minimum passing score on the new reading achievement test in the spring or they will be retained in third grade. The new law takes effect in the 2013-14 school year, making this year's second grade students the first to face the threat of retention. The policy does not apply to non-public charter schools.

The new effort might sound familiar to some parents and educators due to its similarity to Ohio's Fourth Grade Guarantee put into place more than 10 years ago. There is one major difference: Some loopholes regarding retention were attached to the 1997 legislation; this time there are very few exceptions and parents have no say in the matter.

Belcher expects some parents won't be pleased with the news about retentions and he wants them to know the decision didn't originate at the school.

"This isn't coming from us," he said. "It's from legislators passing laws."

The letters sent to parents list services the school currently provides to improve reading skills, plus additional instructional services that will be made available to a child who is not on track.

These services, and other tenets of the Third Grade Promise have actually been part of Fayette's reading instruction for years, Belcher said.

For example, the new law requires that students' reading skills are tested at the start of the school year, something the school has done for years and, in fact, does three times a year. Progress is monitored throughout the school year. 

A plan must be established for students who are not on track and parent involvement is encouraged—as it has been in the past. Teachers want good communication with parents, however, parents will not be able to fight retention if ordered.

Exceptions to retention can be granted for special education students who have an individualized education program (IEP) and also for some students who speak English as a second language. 

Belcher said the parents of about half of the students received letters indicating their child could be in danger of retention. He figures that's probably on the high side, but he doesn't want the news to come as a shock at the end of the school year.

He also thinks the number is high for another reason: Some children experience a loss of progress over the summer if they aren't reading at home. However, the state requires an assessment by Sept. 30, followed by a notification to parents. He also expects many children to progress through the year and lose their "not on track" status.

The district is using federal Title II funds to pay a teacher at the substitute rate to work on reading skills with second grade students and others in small groups.

"We're trying to work a year ahead," he said, "as we count down to next year."

Starting in 2013-14, teachers who work with students who are having reading problems will be required to obtain a special endorsement through additional study.

The idea behind the legislation is the belief that mastery of reading by third grade is essential for success in other subjects. Several states now have third grade reading standards in place, but not all of them have the same retention rule.

Like many educators, Belcher isn't a fan of forced retention.

"Research shows that one of the worst things you can do is to hold them back," he said. "It can scar a student. I can handle change and higher standards, but I can't handle hurting children. I think it's morally wrong."

In reviewing retention policies in two other states, the Education Commission of the States published a paper in March of this year stating that retention policies create a sense of urgency in efforts to improve reading skills, but cautioned that retention should not be the first and only step taken.

Early identification and intervention are seen as more likely to improve student performance, the paper concluded, and suggested an expansion of quality pre-kindergarten programs. States with the most success, whether retention was used or not, focus on small class size and intensive, personalized help.

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