Legislators vote to change Michigan's third-grade reading rule

Posted at 5:38 PM, Mar 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-08 17:38:23-05

CLINTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) — It is one of the first bills introduced by the legislature after Democrats took control.  Now it has been voted through by the legislature and is on track to change Michigan’s Third Grade Reading Law. 7 Action News asked school leaders what parents need to know. 

If your child has been receiving extra support learning to read, as outlined in a law passed in 2016 that aimed to help struggling readers, L’Anse Creuse Superintendent Eric Edoff wants you to know that support will continue. 

“The retention piece is a very narrow part of the law. It has been repealed. But the supports remain,” said Edoff of the changes in the bill passed by the legislature. 

The retention piece was controversial because some research shows that, in general, retaining a child does not improve their ability to read. Proponents said the goal was to make sure parents took reading seriously and got involved when their children fell behind at reading. 

L’Anse Creuse District Literacy Coach Rebecca Gillich says the district will work to make sure parents know when they need to support their children, even if they don’t get a legally required letter raising the topic of holding children back. 

“I think some of that anxiety might come away if they don’t receive that. But it is important to know, as a parent myself, what is my child able to do and what is the school doing to increase their achievement,” said Gillich.

Opponents of the read or flunk rule say it risked hurting children whose parents couldn’t be more involved for any number of reasons.  Many opponents pointed to how a study from the Education Policy Innovation Collaborative found economically disadvantaged children significantly more likely to be held back under the new law. 

Superintendent Edoff says schools will still have the option of retention when it is needed. 

“I think the mandatory retention piece, the biggest issue was it was a one size fits approach for all students. That remains. The option remains for parents and educators to discuss. It just can be more customized and individualized based on the circumstances of that family and child,” said Edoff. 

The bill is on the way to the governor’s desk.  She is expected to sign it into law.