Third grade reading retention law lifted starting next month

By Shelby Stewart-Soldan
Staff Writer
Michigan — Beginning in March 2024, Public Act 7 of 2023 will go into affect. PA 7 repeals the retention component of the Read by Grade Three law, which required students who did not meet state standards for reading by the end of third grade to repeat the grade.
Originally Senate Bill 12, which was passed by the senate and house of representatives in 2023, repealed just the part of the original law that was passed on 2016.
The senate bill passed in a 20-16 vote, with senator Ruth Johnson, R-Groveland Township, 12th district, crossing party lines to vote for the repeal.
“Sending students back through the same grade they just finished isn’t a good solution and can hurt them socially and emotionally,” said Johnson. “Kids who are struggling with reading need targeted help and support from trained tutors, not to repeat an entire grade. It’s so important to diagnose any reading disabilities such as dyslexia early and to get them the right interventions too.”
Johnson has a degree in K-9 education and completed her student teaching and taught a first/second grade split in Clarkston.
While the repeal affects the Read by Grade Three law, it only repeals the retention portion. It does not repeal the intervention requirements.
“The beneficial part, from our perspective, was it required schools to not only identify who our students are who are struggling to read, but then to create individualized reading plans,” said Brandon Schools Curriculum Director Coy Stewart.
“That was the positive thing, that we intentionally created specific individualized reading plans for all of our students who weren’t making the mark. That was required for K-3, but we as a district applied it for K-5. So that was a positive consequence of the law.”
Stewart also said that retention research has shown that it doesn’t help the students catch up, and can increase the chances that they will drop out of school later on.
“And when we’re talking about K-3 students, they’re our youngest students,” she said. “There is such a wide developmental progression continuum. They progress at vastly different rates. Sometimes there are kids who don’t learn to read until the end of third grade because it’s just the progression they’re on. This matches the way kids learn.”
To track progress, the district uses the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) tests, as well as the developmental reading assessment third edition. This also allows the district to identify students who might require reading intervention.
“At each of the elementaries, we have certified reading specialists, who design the instruction using the resources we have,” she said. “We have expert teachers who work with classroom teachers to plan what the intervention will be, we really fine-tune to the specific area they need. We use those assessment pieces to determine their weakness, be it comprehension or phonics or something else.”
The repeal of the retention portion of the Read by Grade Three law takes affect in March of 2024.

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