Data suggests thousands of 3rd graders might need to retake reading under new law

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EAST LANSING, MI (WILX) -- The controversial Read by Grade Three law will take effect this coming school year, but if it did today thousands of kids would need to retake third-grade reading.

It's estimated that between two and five percent would need to do so. The State Board of Education asked Michigan State's Education Policy Innovation Collaborative (EPIC) to evaluate the law. The hope is that by identifying the kids most at-risk for being held back, they can help them before it happens.

"It's a very big, impactful law. We don't know what the impact will be, but we know that it will be a far-reaching law," Professor of Education Policy and Codirector of EPIC Joshua Cowen said.

That's why EPIC is trying to find out what impact the law will have. They did this by looking at the English Language Arts portion of the 2017-18 M-STEP. They chose to find a range because there are a number of factors that could play into kids who might have to repeat third-grade reading, and kids who don't.

"What we're trying to do is provide as much evidence as possible so that the best decisions get made by policymakers with the most amount of information," Cowen added.

More specifically, according to that data, between 7 and 11 percent of African American third graders, up to 10 percent of special education students, and between 12 and 20 percent of students in partnership schools would have to repeat third-grade reading. But there are some things that parents can do.

"Read at least 20 minutes a day with your children, 30 minutes if you can. Read aloud, read silently, read together, where maybe the parent is reading a little bit and the child is reading a little bit. Talk about what your reading," Marisela Garza of Capital Area District Libraries said.

With the numbers in mind, experts say the purpose isn't to scare people but to keep parents and educators informed in real-time about how to best teach students.

"Especially in those early grades, kids are really learning to read so that later on they are reading to learn," Garza said.

"Our hope would be that people wait before they pass total judgment until there is more evidence to kind of understand what is actually happening. What's been good for kids? What hasn't been? Where can changes be made? What's been successful, and what's not been successful?" Cowen said.

In addition, EPIC will also survey educators as they implement the new law and to see how their teaching practices change.

Michigan is one of 16 states in the United States which has a reading law like this.

To read the full report, click here.

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