54% of Michigan 3rd graders not reading proficiently

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    After a number of initiatives to improve literacy in Michigan’s elementary schools, students are still struggling to meet the state’s proficiency standard.

    According to data released by the state Department of Education, Michigan schools are still falling below the expectations based on results from the M-STEP, a standardized test given to students in the third through eighth grades. Data show that more than 54% of third graders cannot read at proficient levels. 

    M-STEP data, Michigan Department of Education

    In 2019, 30.4% of third-graders were ranked not proficient in the English language arts portion of the exam and 24.5% of third-grade students ranked partially proficient.

    For some third-grade students, this could mean being held back if they’re reading at below a second-grade level under Michigan’s new reading law

    Under the Read by Grade Three law, signed in 2016 by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, school districts are required to hold back students who do not meet the reading standards set by M-STEP standardized test given in spring 2020. 

    Researchers find 3rd grade reading law could lead to thousands of kids held back

    A study from MSU’s Education Policy Innovation Collaborative (EPIC) found that based on 2018-19 M-STEP results, up to 5% of Michigan third-graders would be held back from enhancing to the next grade level.

    The law was delayed until this current school year, and students would be held back for the 2020-21 school year. 

    The delay was intended to give districts a chance to improve their reading scores through the Michigan Action Plan for Literary Excellence from 2017 to 2020. The intention is to make Michigan one of the top 10 education states in 10 years. 

    According to the state, the plan is being executed through three primary goals: “Align policies, funding, and resources toward greater literacy achievement; develop a statewide literacy leadership and learning network for families, coaches, educators, and administrators; and support instructional skills of educators.”

    Teacher survey: Dreading 3rd grade reading law, tired of being called ‘loser socialists’

    But a survey by the group Launch Michigan showed that 22% of teachers aren’t confident that their schools will be able to provide students sufficient help to improve literacy.

    Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer isn’t confident in the law, either, and has said she’d like it repealed. In March, Whitmer told MLive she finds the law “destructive.” Her Fiscal Year 2020 budget plan includes a budget increase of up to $55.4 million to fund literacy coaches.

    Allison Donahue
    Allison Donahue covers education, women's issues, LGBTQ issues and immigration. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.

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