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More third-graders in Michigan may be restrained under the Reading Act

Parents of nearly 5,700 Michigan students are receiving unwanted news: their third-graders may not move into fourth grade because of low reading scores.

This is 60 percent more than the number of students who were eligible for retention last year.

The Michigan Department of Education attributes the growth to an increase in the number of students taking this year’s Michigan Educational Progress Test. Ninety-eight percent of students took the M-STEP English exam in third grade, up from 71 percent last spring. Grades in the reading of this test determine the right to compliance within the disputed staff «read third grade ”law.

But that only partially explains the growth. Scores have also dropped.

This year, 5.8% of those who passed the test received at least one point behind, making them eligible for retention. This is 4.8% more than last year.

It is unclear how many of these students will actually be detained under a law that provides ample opportunity for parents to request exemptions. Administrators last year they were generously givenjust holding back 0.2% of those entitled to conservation.

Administrators may be less lenient in an academic year with fewer school closures, quarantines, and other pandemic-related disruptions.

“Last year there was a general recognition of the fact that children did not have the opportunity to learn to the extent they would normally,” said Catherine Strank, director of Innovation Education Policy Cooperation at the University of Michigan. “I don’t understand how the districts will react now that there is a return to normal life,” she said.

State Superintendent Michael Rice said a single test result should not determine whether a third-grade student is repeating.

“Detention decisions should be made on a per-student basis, after consultation with parents, teachers and administrators,” he said. “In general, however, the idea that this score on the state assessment should create compliance does not make sense. Before deciding to keep a student, you need to consider the different performance of students.

The State Center for Educational Progress and Information began sending letters to parents on May 18th.

The Michigan K-12 Alliance, which has opposed the law from the beginning, hopes few students will survive.

“Keeping a child can be extremely detrimental to their academic success,” said Bob McCann, the alliance’s executive director. Individual tuition, tutoring and reading instruction are the best solutions, and schools are already offering them, he said.

Rice agreed, adding that fewer classes, good teacher training and a summer school are also more beneficial than conservation, as well as well-trained school librarians, specialized care for students with dyslexia and a longer school year.

This year, 96% of students took state grades, compared to 70% last year. MDE is expected to publish the results of these tests in early fall.

“It’s nice to see a higher level of participation this year – another sign that a higher percentage of parents, students and staff feel comfortable in schools,” Rice said.

Last year, fewer students took standardized tests because they need to be given in person, and many students have studied remotely.

“It’s a positive sign when you regularly see more children in school where they can interact with each other and their teachers to help them grow, learn and develop in a variety of ways.”

Tracy Mauriello covers public education policy for Chalkbeat Detroit and Bridge Michigan. Contact her at tmauriello@chalkbeat.org.

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