How many Michigan third-graders should flunk?

There’s a battle being waged among adults in Lansing about children in third grade, a battle over how many of those children should stay in third grade.

The GOP controls both state chambers, but Republicans in the House of Representatives want more third graders to be barred from advancing to fourth grade if they aren’t reading at grade level; Republicans in the Senate want fewer to flunk.

Until that disagreement is sorted out, mandates for increased reading coaches and early intervention for struggling readers will be held up.

House Bill 4822 is an effort to improve third-grade reading skills. It includes mandates for additional reading help for struggling students in early grades, and requires students who are still reading below grade level at the end of third grade to be held back until they reach reading proficiency. The debate is over how many ways a non-proficient student can still advance to fourth grade.

The bill is now in conference, which means a handful of representatives and senators will try to hash out the differences between the versions passed by the two chambers.

Studies show third-grade reading skills are a key barometer of future success.

That’s not a good sign for Michigan, which is 40th in the nation in third-grade reading proficiency rates.

Former State Superintendent Mike Flanagan told Bridge in 2013 that how well children read in third grade predicts their success in the rest of their school career. Students who aren’t reading at grade level by the end of third grade are four times less likely to graduate on time, which typically means smaller paychecks throughout their lifetimes.

Sixteen states have laws that recommend retaining kids in third grade if they are not reading at grade level.

But other research shows that retaining kids in a grade, while well meaning, carries unintended consequences, including increasing their chances of dropping out of school.

(Read Bridge Magazine’s report on Michigan’s “redshirt kindergartners”)

Retaining students also comes with a cost for taxpayers: Students who are retained in third grade will be in school for an extra year, at a current cost of about $7,400 per student.

“I agree with intervention, but mandatory retention is idiotic,” said Ferndale Schools Superintendent Blake Prewitt. “It’s the one thing that everyone in education agrees on – retention doesn’t work. You’re just repeating the same stuff they weren’t successful with the first time.”

Michigan’s third-grade reading legislation effort first surfaced in 2013, with a more punitive “read or flunk” bill, sponsored by Rep. Amanda Price, R- Holland, that could have held back as many as 39,000 third-graders, with no money set aside for early literacy intervention.

That bill didn’t pass. This session’s version is patterned off recommendations made by a third-grade reading workgroup put together by Gov. Rick Snyder. That report emphasized the importance of identifying struggling readers early and one-on-one instruction to help them catch up.

This session’s House version, also sponsored by Price, requires schools to offer a full-court press of services for students who are struggling with reading, beginning as early as the fall of their kindergarten year. The efforts, which range from reading coaches to individualized reading plans, are aimed at boosting the reading abilities of struggling students to help them reach grade-level proficiency by the end of third grade.

The policy would take effect in the 2019-20 school year. Students who are third graders in 2019-20 (who are in kindergarten this year) who are reading at least one grade level below third grade when they finish that school year can be held back.

Where the House and Senate disagree is how many loopholes should exist for third-graders to advance to fourth grade even if they are a year or more behind. The Senate version includes more exemptions, including allowing parents to tell schools they want their children to advance to fourth grade despite their reading scores.

“Some changes were made (in the Senate) that we felt really relaxed (retention),” House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, told Gongwer News Service. “And in some cases maybe relaxed it too much.”

Bill sponsor Price did not return a call to her office for comment.

While not the focus of the bill, the possibility of retention is needed for accountability, said Gary Naeyaert, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project, a school choice and charter advocacy group that was an early advocate for the measure.

“Our desire is that kids get to grade level without being retained,” Naeyaert said. “But it’s our opinion that if retention is an uncomfortable consequence, then it’s a motivation for children, parents and schools to get serious about the interventions that are necessary. If there are no consequences, we haven’t changed anything.”

That’s not the view of Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, who voted against the House version in October and the Senate version when it was returned to the House in March.

The Senate’s added exemptions “attempts to poke holes in a terrible idea, but it’s still a terrible idea (to retain students because of reading scores),” Irwin said.

The exemption allowing parents to override the third-grade retention policy “allows parents who are involved to have an opportunity to exempt their child. But there will be children who won’t have those resources at home,” creating a system that could mean more low-income urban children are likely to flunk third grade than their similarly struggling suburban peers.

Nobody really knows how many kids would repeat third grade as a result of the bill. The tests to determine reading proficiency haven’t been set, early literacy intervention efforts are just getting started, and nobody knows how many students will qualify for and use exemptions. Naeyaert estimated 3,000 students would be retained – just 3 percent of third-graders, but triple the number now being retained.

About $100 million is being funneled to Michigan schools to beef up early literacy this school year through two different funds, with a similar amount set for 2016-17. Education experts say early intervention, rather than retention, is likely to make the biggest impact on the education of Michigan’s children. House Bill 4822 mandates ways that money should be spent. But those mandates are tied up until the Legislature can agree on retention exemptions.

“We have to have a laser focus on this and not … continue to have high school graduates who can’t read,” Naeyaert said.

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Thu, 03/31/2016 - 9:30am
The word Gary Naeyaert is looking for is not "accountability"--it's "punishment." The 2015-16 MI Legislature does not seem capable of crafting policy designed to build capacity or urge public institutions toward doing the right thing. They don't even incentivize--they just mandate and punish. Having had a look at the bill as it came out of committee, I don't have high hopes for its effectiveness, unfortunately. It reads like a bill written by a committee of people who don't understand early childhood literacy, or why some children struggle in learning to read. It's worth considering that Finland--with its top-of-the-heap international test scores--begins formal reading instruction when children turn seven. One year before we're labeling them failures by mandating retention. Great headline, by the way.
Thu, 03/31/2016 - 10:02am
Amen, Nancy. I wonder how many of these legislators have ever visited an elementary school and know anything about education. None of us learn the same way or at the same speed . Of course this doesn't fit the "one size fits all" mentality of our "leaders"
Thu, 03/31/2016 - 10:03am
I have worked in Children's mental health for 40 years. Third grade retention will do little except mark the child as a "failure" psychologically! The child has not failed to read at grade level, the SYSTEM HAS FAILED to provide the child what they need to succeed. Sometimes this means going the extra mile with parents and working to get them to be a "part of the teaching staff". (valuing parent as much as the child) ,Sometimes it means different approaches to learning and using large motor (crawling, climbing, etc), to facilitate the learning process. Sometimes it takes a sincere emotional attachment to the student before he/ she feels "safe" enough to learn. Please, lets not damage the child further my labeling them a failure!
Tue, 04/05/2016 - 8:10am
Thank you! If you put parameters in place that place the accountability on both the schools and parents so that they can partner in the best interest of the child, these silly ideas would actually hold some weight with the educators.
Thu, 03/31/2016 - 10:03am
How much research did our elected officials do before crafting this bill? We are pushing children to read now in kindergarten which is ridiculous . How about taking into account their maturity and trying to determine what issues are keeping them from reading like dyslexia etc. Maybe some small group help or other strategies would make a difference.
Janice Whiteherse
Thu, 03/31/2016 - 10:09am
Flunk is such a poor choice of words, with many, many negative connotations. Having to repeat a grade is very difficult for a child, as well as their parents, unless handled in a sensitive way. "Flunking" lacks sensitivity.
Gene Golanda
Thu, 03/31/2016 - 10:50am
Retain is just a nice word for "FLUNK"! By the time children reach third grade, they recognize the difference. . How many of the third grade children who are unable to read a some "tested level" have books to read in their homes? How many of these children have parents who can read, even at this level? How many are from non-English speaking homes? How many have physical or mental conditions that inhibit reading proficiency such as poor eyesight, poor hearing, speech impediments or dyslexia? I am familiar with adults, who are otherwise gifted, who cannot read at a third grade level without great difficulty, who still function as useful participants in this modern world. There are times when holding a child back in a given grade might be beneficial - providing that parents are in agreement and this action is taken early enough, generally before third grade. We need to allow caring professional teachers to make these decisions, not professional politicians! .
Thu, 03/31/2016 - 10:53am
I'm a retired a teacher and I realize that not all teachers are trained to teach reading. Yes, it's more then reading words. Our elected officials need to visit the schools, see for themselves what goes on in a classroom. Teach for a day or a week to understand what the children are thinking and doing. How are they spending their hours after school? You hold a child back and they feel inferior to their classmates and they have one strike against them which can continue for life.
Chuck Fellows
Thu, 03/31/2016 - 12:10pm
The legislature and education pundits are woefully ignorant. Why is it assumed that a child's cognitive ability shall meet a prescribed timeline based on "studies" and cultural opinion? Fundamentally our system of education is driven by a one hundred year old paradigm, a belief that eight years elementary, four years secondary, and that sitting obediently in a classroom for twelve years being fed content constitutes a learning experience. Magically competition for higher and higher test scores provide a measure of accountability ( more likely a measure of our collective stupidity) This assumes brain development proceeds at the exact same pace for all children. This must be true since we structure and fund education based on mass production principles and pay for it based on units produced by a calendar driven system. Stop this insanity! Build a new system identifying individual student cognitive strengths and weaknesses, design curriculum and pedagogy for the individual and allocate funds to that specific individuals learning journey. Stop basing our system of education on myth, folklore, opinion, mass production, military precision and the opinions of those that have not spent any meaningful time in a classroom.
Fri, 04/01/2016 - 9:55am
Chuck, If you are suggesting that the education system has been a failure how do you explain all of the people, I suspect including yourself, that have not only survived, they have succeed. How can a system that has produced so many who have succeed in college and other post K-12 education specially training programs be such a total failure. There is no doubt that many have a difficult path to success, but is the ease of success the only criteria of a successful system? I suspect many of my teachers found me as a challenge, some didn't, I am still one that is a 'poor' reader and yet the knowledge and skills I learned in K-12 were the foundation of what I need to develop the knowledge and skills to learn and apply what I learned. I do think that the system is more about the efficiency of providing education than it is about developing learning and even about the efficiency of those administering the system. The system can be made more effective, but within our culture the hundred year old system has provide us and the world with better lives. I look at the impact no just the day to day mechanics. I am a strong believer that the student, their role/responsibilities, have been so downplayed by all, including you, that all that is seen and talked about is the system. Even in a bad system if the people [children] have the desire they will find ways to make the system benefit them. We have success in the system, we need to be investigating those successes not just making our assumptions. In one sense I don't care about the system if were would only start asking and listening to the students about what are the barriers they face, how and why the overcome them or let them prevent them learning. Discarding the current system and replace it with something no ones what it is would rely on blind luck to succeed or even exceed what we have. Better to decide on what the purpose of the system should be and then start with what success looks like. We have in place people and structure why not simply begin to better understand what we want it to do?
Phil L.
Thu, 03/31/2016 - 12:27pm
At the risk of losing my liberal card, I'm not too concerned with this legislation. There are so many loopholes that few additional students will be held back. It will cause schools to shift money around to help students get past this hurdle. They will also probably move the better elementary school teachers into grades 1-3. I think that's all good. There will be some additional pressure on third grade students, but hopefully, parents and teachers will help them keep it in perspective. This legislation isn't the hammer I'd use, but it won't cause dire consequences, based on what's happened in other states that pass third grade reading retention laws with the usual exemptions.
Lisa Alexander-...
Thu, 03/31/2016 - 5:04pm
I'm not a teacher or in any way a member of the education system. However, I am a mom, and I did teach my children to read. I think the legislators are missing a key point here. Bring back phonics, teach the kids to read the way we were taught to read. Teach them how to sound out words, instead of just looking at a picture and identifying it. The is, or was, a book on the market titled "Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons" it needs to be in every classroom from Kindergarten on to the third grade. It is a system of phonics that works. I taught my oldest daughter to read independently before she was 5 years old. Why are the educators not catching these kids before they get to the third grade, and working with them to get them to grade level so there is no reason to retain them?
Sun, 04/03/2016 - 1:04pm
I don't know which district you live in but phonics are taught in most schools. I am a retired teacher and now substitute in several districts. Every one teaches phonics. As far as your comment about teachers not "catching these kids before they get to the third grade, and working with them to get them to grade level," that's why we have Title I programs for extra reading help, and pull-outs with classroom volunteers to work one-on-one or in small groups with kids on reading. As a parent, surely you realize that parental involvement is also one part of this learning triangle, as well as the students themselves.
Thu, 03/31/2016 - 5:30pm
Ferndale Schools Superintendent Blake Prewitt. “It’s the one thing that everyone in education agrees on – retention doesn’t work. You’re just repeating the same stuff they weren’t successful with the first time.” Doesn't it occur to him that the student, being a year older and more mature, might be considerably more successful the second time around? And doesn't it occur to him that "intervention" and "mandatory retention" are not mutually exclusive? Isn't it possible that intervention will avoid retention? And that mandatory retention would be used as a last resort if intervention fails? As the article says, "Education experts say early intervention, rather than retention, is likely to make the biggest impact on the education of Michigan’s children." So give intervention a chance. "Students who aren’t reading at grade level by the end of third grade are four times less likely to graduate on time, which typically means smaller paychecks throughout their lifetimes." That indicates that they are retained in a grade at least once even if they weren't retained in the third grade. So if they are eventually going to be retained anyway, why not gamble on retention in the third grade?
Ruth Hill
Thu, 03/31/2016 - 6:25pm
3rd, 5th, 6th classroom teacher and library media specialist K-12. Retired 40 years. Schools: Dexter, Lansing, Dansville, Hobbs New Mexico, Hastings and SHAPE Belgium. (Seasoned). Class size for 3rd: 18. Special reading recovery teacher trained in word chunks who plans weekly with teacher for English writing, spelling and science vocabulary & social studies lessons that makes sense for challenged reader. Reading Counts or Accelerated incentive reading program through media center that has books that support program. Eye candy libraries as one of my military moms described my transformed library in NATO ele school. Strong line item funding for library, reading recovery teacher and curriculum/textbook resources. Reading development support as needed by professionals. Emotionally distressed children always struggle and that needs to be recognized. If they have not talked by third grade, that is a problem. If they bite when frustrated, that is a problem. If they are afraid of other children that is a problem. If they have moved since going to school that is a problem. I have had 12 & 13 year old kids in my fifth grade. At the end of the year double promoted children graduated. Others quit school ASAP and usually incarcerated. It is the GOP's right to be stupid but they are abusing it.
Debbie corbin
Thu, 03/31/2016 - 7:03pm
Ron French if you would like some real raw literature to write about contact me or the thousands of mothers in MI that battle daily to get the proper reading interventions for their children. My children are dyslexic and so are thousands of children. 20% of the population is dyslexic . That's 1 in 5 people with dyslexia need an Orton Gillingham based reading intervention ...this bill " excuses" the ones identified but does not force schools to supply that intervention OR identify (find) the thousands of unidentified dyslexic's . Untill this is addressed nothing will's simple to google the stats and interventions but in politics common sence doesn't matter. It's about teacher training in regards to dyslexia and the EVADENCE based intervention needed ...researched based won't work, our children don't need more of the same of what failed them the first time. Special education teachers, reading specialist, general education teachers and collages teaching up coming teachers DO NOT TEACH about this....NOTHING WILL CHANGE untill this is addressed
Fri, 04/01/2016 - 9:11am
The best way for a student to improve reading is to read. As a teacher I use research based strategies to teach children to read. Those children who read at school and at home often excell beyond their grade level. But too many students who are failing to improve simply will not put in the effort. Obviously there are those who have a disability, but they have laws to support them. Why do we continuously want to withhold the greatest stakeholder from the consequence of not learning...the child. There are studies about how it affects students, but how many studies are done about the effects on social promotion...oh yeah that's called drop out!
Fri, 04/01/2016 - 10:01pm
<> If they're dyslexic, telling them to "read more" and doing "guided reading" types of interventions (like the program in my district where untrained volunteers read along with struggling readers) will NOT help. Nor will blaming the parents for supposedly not reading enough at home. You are a PERFECT example of why this bill will make things worse for the 80-90% of struggling readers who are impacted by dyslexia (that statistic comes from NIH, YALE & UM DyslexiaHelp). $26 million taxpayer dollars of funding, placed in the hands of people like you -- full of myths and misconceptions -- to be spent on more of what doesn't work. Saying a dyslexic student just needs to "try harder" or "read more" is like telling a visually-impaired student to "try harder" to see or a hearing - impaired student to "try harder" to see and hear. FUTILE is about the most polite thing you can say about that non-solution. The negative consequences of reading struggles are entirely avoidable ... but "Tough Love" is not what will accomplish these good outcomes. Neither will an extra year of misguided intervention (hint: 3rd grade is too late for informed action ... if you haven't helped them by third, you don't know what you are doing. If a student is dyslexic, they require specific early screenings and interventions that are NOT currently mandated by this bill and are NOT currently performed or understood in our schools. You can't solve a problem you don't acknowledge. Dyslexics require the kinds of methods found here: and here: With that instruction, many will thrive thereafter with simple accommodations. Without it, their deficits will snowball while they are locked out of learning alongside their peers. Since students with dyslexia don't and won't have access to early identification and proven interventions in our schools that they require to succeed, retention is more punitive than corrective for them. Their fate depends entirely on their families for quality intervention, the cost of which is staggering; it's out of reach for most. It can take a few years for the most severely impacted kids to catch up with private help ... in the meantime they can maintain grade-level in other subjects with good accommodations and assistive tech. Retention is unnecessary. Even if schools were willing to address the problem, it would take years to redirect interventions and train enough personnel to address the dyslexia action gap to give kids a fighting chance to avoid this insult to injury... so, in the meantime, it is critical that parent input be preserved regarding retention.
Fri, 04/01/2016 - 10:08pm
"Those children who read at school and at home often excel beyond their grade level. But too many students who are failing to improve simply will not put in the effort." No child wants to fail at reading. Don't be ridiculous. Lack of effort on the part of children is NOT a proven root cause of low-literacy, but it is a status quo-friendly excuse for not examining your current practices. I defy you to produce a peer-reviewed study that children are to blame for their own illiteracy. There are, however, plenty of peer-reviewed studies that show struggling readers have very specific instructional needs ... and plenty more evidence that those needs are being ignored and unmet in schools. When schools apply inappropriate interventions (no doubt some of those "research-based" ones you are fond of) -- knowingly or out of a lack of training -- they have the perfect out. Just blame the parents, they blame the child ... So yes ... we agree ... More accountability is definitely called for, but it must fall squarely on ~education leadership~ and on the ~policy leaders~, whose support is critical to quality education. Instead of dreaming up threats, the establishment needs to take a wicked hard look at the the gap between what our schools implement and what science and the experts know works for today's so-called struggling readers (aka instructional casualties). THAT is where more effort is required.
Fri, 04/01/2016 - 10:10pm
"Obviously there are those who have a disability, but they have laws to support them." Really? Can you name these laws specifically? Your claim is pure fiction. Such laws either do not exist or they are unfunded and unenforced. You simply have no clue what you are talking about. 9 out of 10 ~diagnosed~ dyslexics do. not. qualify for an IEP in Michigan (per UM DyslexiaHelp). 2/3rds are undiagnosed in school. Even when kids do qualify for some help, our schools refuse to or are unable to provide the intensive, proven interventions that work. There is no requirement in the bill's literacy coach job description for training in methods known to help students with dyslexia. Let alone training for gen ed and spec ed teachers who will spend more time with the kids than any lit coach will. So when parents of students with dyslexia look to these "professionals" for help, they will get the same blank stares and denials they get from school pros now. Where is the accountability there? Where is this support you claim exists? Dyslexia may be a disability, but its negative effects are entirely avoidable. However, until we insist on educating the educators and raising awareness, there will be no meaningful improvement for these kids. Special education was never designed to address this problem -- but it is one that is solvable with early ID, specific. proven interventions and accommodations. NTM addressing it will have benefits far beyond the 20% of Michganders who are affected. It will improve instruction for everyone.
Fri, 04/01/2016 - 10:13pm
"Why do we continuously want to withhold the greatest stakeholder from the consequence of not learning…the child." That is terrific spin for people who favor this kind of policy, but it's more nonsense. Make no mistake: it is not the ~children~ who are avoiding consequences here; there are life-long, serious, sometimes life-threatening consequences for children who don't learn to read and write well. I think the question is and always has been ... how can we protect our greatest resource and the future of Michigan from the consequences of illiteracy? Flunking struggling readers in itself doesn't teach kids to read- only good teachers can do that with quality instructions and interventions. Flunk kids without addressing the real root cause and ~Michigan~ will have plenty of consequences, alright ... In prisons and in other social problems that cost four-times as much as bringing the standard-of-care in schools in line with what already works elsewhere.
Fri, 04/01/2016 - 10:17pm
"There are studies about how it affects students, but how many studies are done about the effects on social promotion…oh yeah that’s called drop out!" My, you certainly have mastered the GLEP talking points, haven't you? Social promotion vs retention is a false argument. It's NONSENSE. BOTH are negative outcomes. NO ONE in their right mind would favor either one. It's a rhetorical device for simpletons and demagogs to demonize opposition. Anyone well-versed enough in the problem to engage the false claims of the bill's proponents in a meaningful way cares deeply about literacy; the accusation that they WANT children to fail is beyond absurd. Parents certainly don't want their children to fail ... or get a free pass from literacy and a chance at success. They want them to read and write. Where are these straw man parents you describe? Proponents claim the bill will provide screening and support to give kids a chance to achieve literacy by 3rd ... but the facts do not bear that out. Most states that already have retention policies end up having to enact all kinds of bandaid fixes and half-measures retroactively ... especially in the case of dyslexia, where the action gap remains unaddressed in retention states in spite of all the "tough love." The states that have come before us enacting retention policies are proving one-by-one that the threat of retention does nothing to convince the educators to what struggling reader families and experts already know: Florida ... the original retention state has no less than 4 dyslexia bills in its legislature this session. Tennessee has a new law mandating screening and teacher training for dyslexia. Arizona enacted a dyslexia exemption -- because that is all they could get to offset the negative impact of this bill. Families of students with dyslexia in Ohio will tell you their retention law doesn't require dyslexia screening and so it's not happening. Their schools are still applying the same programs that don't work and families still can get access to what their kids need to thrive. Just to name four examples.
Sat, 04/02/2016 - 10:06am
"As a teacher I use research based strategies to teach children to read." Sorry ... whatever "research-based" strategies your are using, they stink. According to NAEP, 72% of Michigan 4th graders score BELOW PROFICIENT. See the data: "strategies" are visibly failing three-quarters of kids ... and really ... ALL of them. Some are just wired well enough to read without quality instruction, so they manage to pass the assessments in spite of what you don't know about reading. But even advanced kids are silently under-performing. See declining ACT and SAT scores: more than half of kids can't achieve proficiency, it's time to stop blaming everyone but yourself. Unfortunately, this bill won't force you to do that. Only your conscience and some due diligence can do that. Until you wake up, Michigan will be failing struggling readers instead of teaching them to read.
Fri, 04/01/2016 - 9:30am
I notice there is no discussion about why the children aren't reading at the third grade level? If we don't know why then how will anything be changed?
Fri, 04/01/2016 - 2:35pm
I don't remember so many kids having trouble reading when I was in first-second grade. Maybe I wouldn't notice at that young age. It seemed the way they taught worked then (early 60's), and then they started changing things (in the 1980's I know for sure). I think that is why kids are having a harder time. I could be all wet - maybe there were a lot of kids who had trouble, but I just don't remember it. It seemed the kids I was in school with all went on to high school (maybe a few didn't) and did fairly well.
Sat, 04/02/2016 - 1:25pm
Marion, Like you I didn't know/I don't know how many were/are struggling readers. This article gives us no reference to put the reading problem in perspective. What also frustrates me is that none of the 'knowledgeable' people show any interest in talking about how they measure the reading capabilities, they don't talk about the different elements of a successful reading skill, they don't describe or even mention factors that prevent students from learning to read effectively. Almost as if they don't what the public to know. Since I was and still am a struggling reader, very slow, I wonder why and what I could have done to be a better reader.
Chris Geerer
Fri, 04/01/2016 - 9:16pm
This bill has nothing to do with reps and senators caring about kids. It's a set of marching orders that was crafted by ALEC and is being pushed into states across the country. Because ALEC is funded by corporations, for corporations, there is bound to be some profit motive (maybe in privatizing mandatory remedial supports?) Price is a bona fide ALEC member who benefits from ALEC junkets in exchange for doing their bidding. Her real interest in this bill lies in doing the work of her masters at ALEC.
Sat, 04/02/2016 - 12:39pm
Ths article points to a growing concern that the current MI legislature is not the entity to create education policy. There are too many special interest lobby from the charter schools movement funding them and providing them with studies. They haven't given the Early Childhood plans and additional dollars time to work. If providing additional early childhood dollars works then it proves charter schools were not answer. Phonics education, full service school libraries and anything that puts good books in the hands of children must be part of the answer.
Sat, 04/02/2016 - 1:39pm
Cat, Is it really that simple? Was reading that much better when we had the school libraries? We have had the 'knowledgeable' people touting the libraries and phonics for as long as I can remember, but the schools didn't seem to see their value since they were the things they cut not the legislature.
Sat, 04/02/2016 - 2:36pm
Retention is not the answer. Considering that the rate of dyslexia is 1 in 5 and 3rd grade is usually when the problems peak with it, that should be the focus. There is next to no help for dyslexic kids in the schools. My son was diagnosed last spring and luckily he is what is considered a stealth dyslexic and reads very well (8th grade level in 4th grade this year) but cannot spell. He spells everything phonetically. He doesn't qualify for ANY help through the schools because he can read, nevermind that everything else affects his learning as well. If we weren't the proactive parents that we are, he would be very behind. We have paid thousands out of pocket for speech and occupational therapies in a private setting to help with his difficulties related to the dyslexia. There cannot be concern for kids reading without actually remediating the causes!! There are several kids in my sons 4th grade class who are unable to both read and write....and have never been diagnosed with dyslexia even though I am positive that is what the problem is. My sons 4th grade teacher has told me that he is the FIRST kid she has ever taught who was dyslexic!! That is only because they weren't diagnosed.....I can bet there have been many, including the ones there now.....just none are diagnosed. The schools aren't equipped to diagnose this, parents don't know what to ask for, and the kids are suffering because of it. Proper remediation includes Barton or Wilson which none of the schools teach even though it is very beneficial for even non dyslexic kids. We have seen first hand how unprepared the schools are to deal with dyslexia and with the rate of it being 1 in 5, our schools need to be trained to address these kids needs. These kids represent a HUGE amount of kids who are not being properly helped and in return fall far behind their peers. Luckily, my son has very proactive parents but many are not that lucky or their parents have no idea what is wrong and have no place to turn for help. The school wanted my son diagnosed with ADHD.....that seems to be the trend for the schools. He has no hyperactivity issues and even his pediatrician was appalled when I told her what they wanted. Drugging them won't help, teaching them the way they learn will. Common core is a one size its all teaching method and it has to go....that is NOT how kids learn and not to mention it is developmentally inappropriate for many of its standards!! Retaining a child because they have not been taught in a way they will learn is not going to help at all!! If they have failed to learn to read, the education system is failing them.
Sun, 04/03/2016 - 9:47am
I want to add my voice to the chorus saying that 1) retention as it is currently practiced DOES NOT WORK and 2) the reading instruction in almost all of Michigan's public schools DOES NOT WORK for at least 20% of the student population. "More of the same" will not help failing students learn anything. Punishing the children for the failure of the trained professionals to use effective, individualized multi-sensory methods to teach reading (and writing and spelling and math) makes zero sense. What would make much more sense is to rethink elementary school instruction in order to challenge each student rather than frustrate 30%, bore 30% into disruptive and silly behavior and succeed in matching instruction to only the needs of the middle 40%. Kids aren't widgets; they are not uniform in intellectual capacity, previous knowledge, size, strength, or emotional maturity. Schools and teachers (and parents, though this is less of a problem) should stop trying to pretend that they are. Every kid, on entering each school year, needs to be assessed in reading, writing, science and math skills, and assigned to a group of similarly-skilled kids for instruction in those critical areas. Sure, all the kindergartners can have free play, art, gym, lunch or even what passes for elementary school social studies with their age-mates, but the one who enters K already reading at a 1st or 2nd grade level doesn't need to sit through "A is for apple and airplane" and sound out CVC-word reading instruction, even if the teacher lets her read a book of her own choice to keep her quiet and out of trouble. That reading-advanced student needs reading lessons that move her into "chapter books" in fiction and help her acquire the background knowledge needed to understand and follow more sophisticated or longer pieces of non-fiction. Or maybe she needs to work more on math skills. Or practicing penmanship. Or something, ANYTHING that doesn't waste her potential and turn that student off of school. Given the power and flexibility of adaptive learning software, presenting individualized lessons in each subject and tracking progress is relatively easy for schools with tablet computers or laptops. But especially in pre-K through 3rd grade, students cannot be educated solely through computers. They need to be read to and read real books, they need to discuss and plan activities in small groups, they need to squish clay and stack blocks, they need to set pencils, crayons, markers and paint to paper, and they need to MOVE THEIR BODIES for some time every day. While I strongly agree that students who don't yet read well enough are not ready for higher-level curricula, even if they are "old enough" according to averages, we need to generalize that rule to the entire process of education. A student should not move on to the next lesson / unit / topic in any core subject until he or she has mastered the pre-requisite skills and knowledge. Students who repeatedly fail to master topics within the "expected" amount of time should be tested for disabilities and receive specialized and/or more intensive instruction as a matter of course. That means smaller, more focused groups, longer school days, longer school years and/or tutoring outside the school, NOT pulling students out of their "specials" or electives for the convenience of the special education staff.
Chuck Jordan
Sun, 04/03/2016 - 9:58pm
I feel sorry for the child who struggles reading but is super smart in math and likes building stuff. How children develop and learn to read is complicated and different for each child just as children progress in all areas at different times. A one size fits all method just doesn't work. Tests for reading usually only test recall and reading levels are a crock. Are you able to read and comprehend some subjects/topics easier than others? The worst part of this legislation is the damage that it will do to make many kids hate reading. Thanks to Helen too for her insights.
Dick H
Mon, 04/04/2016 - 11:35am
it has been interesting reading all the various commets and ideas for solutions to the problem. There does not seem to be any discussion about the root cause of this problem. Two major problems areas (among many) are (1) children of working mothers who put their children in day care where there is little or no reading to children and where the parent or parents are to tired at night to read to their children and (2) the children of single low income urban mothers ( white and minority) who are second and third generation single mothers who cannot read past the third grade level themselves. Among the various solutions there has to be one or more that also address these two areas. When the child is brought to pre school or kindergarden the parent or parents should be interviewed to determine what they have done to help their child learn to read,( much time per day did they read to their child and can the child read now.) The parent or parents should also be asked to take a basic reading test to determine their reading ability. For those that cannot pass a third grade reading test there has to a program to help them learn to read at a level that will enable them to help their children succeed in school. Without starting at this basic level educators will always be one or two steps behind in trying to solve this problem.
Mon, 04/04/2016 - 10:37pm
Dick, I'm not so sure of the import of the reading skills of the parents. Is it the parents or even the teachers that determine academic success or is it the student that creates that success? I appreciate how poor reading skills create barriers to academic success, but does it block academic success? Have you read about Dr. Ben Carson's experience and how he and his brother were raised by a working single illiterate mother in Detroit Public Schools? It seems her sons were successful more because of how she instilled a desire for reading and learning than her inability to read. My interest is in identifying the successful students and asking/listening to them about what their barriers to learning were/are, how and why they overcame them.
Barry Visel
Tue, 04/05/2016 - 9:56pm
The only way one can flunk a 'grade' is if there are 'grades'. Like special Ed students, all students could be on an IEP...individualized education plan, that focuses on a students needs at a particular point in their learning process...with a goal of completing K-12 requirements in 13 years, on average. Some may finish early, some a little latter. The goal should be that they learn...not necessarily at some preconceived speed.