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1 year ago

Whitmer signs bill eliminating retention mandate in third grade reading law

The bills, which repeal a law passed during the then-Republican majority's 2016 legislative session, were approved with one or two Republican votes in the Democratic-controlled House and Senate earlier this year.

The repeal of the retention requirement in the law was a priority of former teachers who are now state lawmakers.

"Parents and schools should be trusted to make decisions about grade retention—the state shouldn’t mass-flunk 3rd graders without parent input based on one test,” said Sen. Dayna Polehanki, the Livonia Democrat and former teacher who chairs the Senate Education Committee.

Rep. Nate Shannon, a Sterling Heights Democrat and former educator, said the retention aspect of the law was "harmful" to students.

"Retention has been a constant threat hanging over our students’ heads," Shannon said. "We could use the resources that are spent on retaining students and put that towards more literacy coaches, reading intervention specialists, and provide afterschool and summer school programs to address the issue.”

The bill signed into law Friday repeals a policy that based a student's promotion from third grade to fourth grade on their scores on the state's reading assessment to determine whether they are reading at grade level. The change retains other elements of the law such as staffing recommendations, reading intervention services, and the use of evidence-based curricula and instructional material.

The effect of the law prior to Friday's repeal has been difficult to measure because of school year interruptions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last school year marked one of the first years Michigan Ready by Grade 3 law was put into effect. During that year, one out of every ten third graders eligible to be retained under the law were held back.

Implementation of the law was suspended in the 2019-20 school year — the first year it was set to take effect — because of the pandemic. When the retention component of the law finally went into effect in the 2020-21 school year, most educators said they would not enforce the controversial law.

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