The beginning of this school year brings Michigan closer to a new retention policy commonly referred to as “the third-grade reading law.” In 2019-2020, third-grade students who are more than a grade behind in reading level on the state standardized test may be retained.
In October 2016, Michigan’s legislature responded to dropping test scores and early literacy reading levels by passing the law.
Since then, school districts and intermediate school districts have dedicated large amounts of time and resources to addressing early literacy, though the cut scores for retention remain an unknown target.
There are concerns among educators about the increased reliance on standardized tests to determine student progress and to drive curriculum, but districts are also concerned that parents and the public are not yet fully aware of the law and its implications. Many education advocates are particularly concerned about student communities that experience access gaps and therefore lower test scores. The law could have considerable impact on Michigan’s urban districts like Detroit, Flint, Lansing, and Grand Rapids.