Democrats expected to get rid of law that held 3rd graders struggling to read back in school

Posted at 6:00 PM, Jan 10, 2023

WESTLAND, Mich. (WXYZ) — Democrats in Michigan’s legislature have majority control for the first time in decades.  One of the first bills they are expected to introduce this month will likely address Michigan’s Third Grade Reading Law. 

In 2016 the Michigan Legislature passed a law that required schools provide extra help to struggling learners, something many schools say they were already working on and have no problem with.

It also featured a retention rule.  When a student scored low on the reading portion of a state standardized test in 3rd grade,  it forced schools to put families on notice their child might be forced to take third grade again. 

Supporters of the retention portion of the bill said it was meant to ensure families take the situation seriously and get involved and provide accountability for schools. 

“There is not any data that a third grader being retained is beneficial for that student,” said Gwen Magnan, an Instructional Coach at Schweitzer Elementary in the Wayne Westland School District. 

“I personally believe that students staying in their classroom and being supported by their classroom teacher, a literacy coach, a reading interventionist provides better support than making kids redo the same grade again,” added Emily Fa’Asoa, Literacy Coach Schweitzer Elementary. 

“It is less important to look at data for what is wrong, and more important to look at data for what is right,” said Nancy Schulz, Director of School Improvement & Professional Development at Wayne-Westland Community Schools. 

The message is school leaders want to help children see their strengths and build on them for success. They believe the same thing can be done with our schools. 

Numerous school leaders across the state from bipartisan communities agree we need to do better as Michigan has fallen to 43rd in fourth-grade reading based on the 2022 National Assessment for Educational Progress. 

Many also point to how a study from the Education Policy Innovation Collaborative found economically disadvantaged children significantly more likely to be held back under the new law, which may lead to future disparate impacts. 

“We know that students who are retained are more likely to drop out they are more likely to be expelled or suspended from school. We know the research shows us if someone is held back more than once there is almost a 100% chance they will drop out before they graduate,” said  Dr. Paul Salah, Superintendent Huron Valley Schools.