Democratic lawmakers are moving quickly to remove the part of the state’s third grade reading law that requires students a year or more behind to repeat the grade. The bill passed out of a Senate committee Tuesday.
Michigan’s Read by Grade 3 law requires struggling third-grade readers be held back, but exemptions meant only 545 students were held back this year. Struggling readers who were Black or low-income were far more likely to repeat third grade white, more affluent readers who struggled.
Tuesday’s election put Democrats in charge of the state House, Senate and governor’s office. That could mean bonuses for teachers, more funding for vulnerable districts and an end to the third-grade reading law.
As students and schools try to recover from the pandemic, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republican challenger Tudor Dixon have vastly different plans for how to improve Michigan schools and colleges.
Scores in math and English/Language Arts were mostly down this year compared to before the pandemic on the Michigan standardized test known as M-STEP. The results are likely to heavily impact education spending priorities.
There is a steep increase this year in the percentage of third-graders behind in reading skills — a troubling trend that was far worse for students who spent significant time learning remotely when they were in second grade during the pandemic.
Nearly 5,700 families have been notified that their children tested a year or more behind in reading, making them eligible to be held back a year. But few children actually repeat third grade due to generous loopholes in the law.
The Democratic package would not use standardized test scores this year to evaluate teachers or enforce Michigan’s third-grade reading law in recognition of the disruptions caused by the pandemic. It’s unclear if Republicans will give the bills a hearing.
Michigan’s efforts to boost third-grade reading skills took a hit during the pandemic, with teachers reporting less time to provide targeted support to struggling readers, particularly more vulnerable readers, an MSU report found.
African-American and low-income third-graders were far more likely to be flagged for possible retention due to low reading test scores than their white or non-poor classmates. How many students are actually being held back remains unclear.
The families of almost 3,500 Michigan third-graders received letters recommending they be held back in grade because they scored poorly on a reading test. The actual number who flunk is likely to be much less than that.
If passed, the Republican bill could impact thousands of additional students across two grades next year. Critics say expanding the controversial law is a mistake, given the disruption to learning among all grade levels during the pandemic.