Third graders who are a year behind in reading are supposed to repeat the grade under Michigan’s “read by grade three” law, but few are held back, reports Tracie Mauriello on Chalkbeat.
This year, with nearly all students tested, 5.8 percent of third graders are at least one grade level behind, an increase of 60 percent from last year.
But this has been a more normal school year, with fewer pandemic-related disruptions, so more students may be held back.
The law is unpopular with many educators. “The idea that a given score on a state assessment should generate retention makes no sense,” said State Superintendent Michael Rice. “Student performance in multiple ways should be considered before a decision to retain a student.”
“Three-quarters of below-proficient readers in third grade remain below proficient in high school,” writes Kay Hymowitz.
Does retention help? The “third-grade reading gate” seems to work in Mississippi and Florida, which couple retention with reforms in reading instruction, writes Todd Collins of the California Reading Coalition.
. . . retention in these states isn’t just “repeating the grade.” In Mississippi, retained students are given, at minimum, an individualized reading plan, assigned to a highly qualified teacher, and receive at least ninety minutes of daily reading instruction with targeted interventions. Florida’s approach is similar. More effective retention is likely to lead to a better result.
Collins argues that a fixed, public, test-based promotion standard may not be effective for students, “but it is very effective in getting adults — teachers, administrators, even parents — to focus their attention and change their behavior.”