New law would hold 3rd grade students back if they fail standardized assessments

Posted at 7:13 PM, Sep 21, 2016

A new law will require schools hold third-graders back if they fail standardized state and local assessments.

This will likely impact tens of thousands of students across the state. Less than half of third graders were found to be proficient in English language arts on the M-STEP state assessment last spring.

The early literacy bill passed in the Michigan Legislature on Wednesday and now is headed to the governor’s desk for final approval. Republican Governor Rick Snyder is expected to sign the bill into law.

The bill passed in the Republican House and Senate, mostly along party lines.

Proponents say the goal is to make sure kids know how to read, so they don’t fall behind when given reading assignments in 4th grade.

“Our state is currently 41st in the nation in fourth-grade literacy. We desperately need to improve our literacy outcomes for Michigan students,” said Rep. Amanda Price, chair of the House Committee on Education. “House Bill 4822 puts in place the interventions that will improve our reading scores."

The law will impact current kindergarteners. When they reach third grade, they will have to show they are less than a grade level behind in proficiency. 

A previous version of the bill allowed a principal and teacher to advocate for the child to move forward, if they thought the child could read well enough to advance, despite test results. That was taken out of the final version of the bill.

The only way a child can move forward if they fail tests is if a parent demands a review of the situation from the superintendent. Then the superintendent gets some flexibility.  This could mean that schools with lower levels of parent-involvement will see a greater impact. 

Detroit lawmakers are concerned about the impact this will have in struggling districts.

In the EAA last school year fewer than 5% of students were proficient according to their scores on the state standardized test, the M-STEP. They worry some schools will be forced to hold an extreme number of students back, impacting thousands of students in just Detroit every year. 

“We don’t see this as good for kids,” said Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit)

Critics say many of the mandates that aim to help kids learn to read aren’t funded.

The governor and legislators have designated approximately $55 million for literacy in this and the next fiscal year according to the Associated Press.   

If kids are behind, a reading plan outlining extra support will be made for them. Schools would have literacy coaches to help teachers implement plans.