Third grade reading bill signed into law

Posted at 6:01 PM, Oct 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-06 18:01:08-04

Theresa Weatherall Neal is a superintendent in Grand Rapids and knows how important it is to make sure kids can read.

"The bottom line is we all in the state of Michigan want what is best for our children," Neal says, "reading is it."

But numbers show that less than 50% of third graders are reading at the level they should be.

"We know that we are not where we should be," claims Neal, "we know that we need to continue to push for children, for our children, across the state to be able to read."

The third grade reading bill signed into law Thursday by Governor Rick Snyder aims to accomplish just that.

"When you have roughly half the kids not reading at the level you'd like to them them on the test, you have to do something and that's what this [law] is all about," explains Governor Snyder.

The bill requires schools to test kids on a yearly basis and intervene when necessary.

"We will also have more resources for teachers, we will have literacy coaches for teachers, who may need some help using the data from the assessments to help improve the student's performance," says representative Amanda Price of Park Township.

But if a student doesn't improve, and they aren't testing at grade level by the end of third grade, the child will be held back. Something democrats opposed heavily in the bill process. Representative Tom Cochran of Mason says the retention could hurt schools and students alike.

There will be exemptions for kids who are struggling: those who are learning English as a second language, or can show they're proficient on other tests can petition to move onto fourth grade. But supporters ultimately just want to see more kids proficient by the start of fourth grade, not to hold students back.

The law won't go into effect until the 2019-2020 academic year.