Proposal would allow Michigan kids to pass despite reading scores

Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 6:58 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Michigan ranks among the worst in the nation when it comes to elementary reading scores.

The National Assessment for Educational Progress shows Michigan is now ranked 43rd in the country, compared to 32nd in 2019.

Now, there’s a proposal that would let third graders pass to fourth grade even if they fail the state reading test.

“They should try and stay with their peers,” said Claude Johnson-Perry, third-grade parent.

Johnson-Perry said kids shouldn’t be held back because of state scores. He said his son struggled to learn how to read.

“It was a little bit frustrating. I was like ‘there’s got to be a reason.’ Normally he’s pretty smart,” said Johnson-Perry.

The third-grade reading law was put in place back in 2016 to help schools identify kids who are struggling to read.

Former Representative Amanda Price told Bridge Detroit the law holds schools accountable and was intended to get kids more help to read at grade level.

Repealing the retention requirement, education leaders said that gives schools more flexibility to offer more individualized attention.

“If these kids fail and move on is it setting these kids up to fail later?” News 10′s Cody Butler asked Michigan Education Association spokesman Thomas Morgan.

“Not if we are providing them with all of the tools that they need to get caught up,” Morgan said.

Morgan said those tools include things like more classroom aides and at-home reading programs.

He added holding kids back does more harm.

“Instead of punishing students on the results of a single standardized test, we need to make sure we are working with students to provide them with everything they need,” said Morgan.

A study by Michigan State University shows more students across Michigan scored low enough on the state reading test last year to be held back.

More than 500 third graders are repeating the grade, and education leaders are hoping that will drop if a proposal becomes law.

MSU Education professor Patricia Edwards said holding kids back doesn’t help if they are taught the same way.

“What we have to do is investigate why so many children are coming to school, not on grade level,” said Edwards.

MSU researchers found they are major differences in retention rates for different types of students. Significantly more black students across Michigan are held back than white students.

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