Michigan 3rd grade reading law no longer requires students to be held back

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill Friday that strikes from law a requirement to hold back third graders who fail a reading proficiency test.

"Today, we are taking action to put power back into parents' hands so they can work with their child’s teachers and make decisions that are best for their family," Whitmer said in a statement. "Getting this done will offer parents more flexibility and ensure educators can focus on doing what they do best — helping students reach their full potential."

Senate Bill 12 passed with the support of every Democratic lawmaker along with two Republican lawmakers in the state Senate — state Sens. Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, and Joe Bellino, R-Monroe — and GOP state Rep. Timmy Beson, R-Bay City in the state House.

State Sen. Dayna Polehanki, D-Livonia, the bill sponsor and a former teacher, called Michigan's reading law "state-mandated mass flunking of third grade students based on one reading test score."

She said in a floor speech ahead of the vote in the state Senate that the retention requirement in the law was implemented unequally with students of color and those in lower-performing districts more likely to be held back a year. She stressed that her bill won't touch other elements of the reading law that have helped students, such as reading coaching and other interventions to help struggling students.

More:Michigan House votes to repeal reading law that held third graders back for poor test scores

More:Michigan Senate takes big step towards ending controversial 3rd-grade reading rule

A report from Michigan State University's Education Policy Innovation Collaborative found that in the spring of 2022, nearly 6% of third graders received test scores that made them eligible to repeat the grade under the reading law. The report also found that school districts that mostly instructed students remotely during the 2020-21 school year recorded the highest share of students flagged to be held back another year.

Whitmer's budget proposes investments in boosting K-12 literacy, including an $11 million increase to fund early literacy coaching and a $15 million increase in early literacy grants to school districts across the state.

She has also asked lawmakers to fund her "MI Kids Back on Track" program that would provide every child in the state personalized learning support such as one-on-one tutoring and after-school programs to help students recover from academic setbacks stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Clara Hendrickson fact-checks Michigan issues and politics as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. Make a tax-deductible contribution to support her work at bit.ly/freepRFA. Contact her at chendrickson@freepress.com or 313-296-5743. Follow her on Twitter @clarajanehen.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan 3rd grade reading law retention requirement removed