State delays policy of holding back third-graders over test scores

Apr 30, 2020

A third grade classroom in Traverse City.
Credit Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

The Michigan Department of Education announced Thursday that a controversial part of the ‘Read By Grade Three’ Law has been delayed indefinitely.

Under the policy the state can hold a third grader back if they scored below their grade level for reading and writing abilities.

Standardized tests, which aren’t taking place this Spring due to the coronavirus pandemic, determines those abilities.

"If we have assessments next spring, then there’s no reason that’s on hold (any longer)," said Brandi Bugni, literacy manager for the Michigan Department of Education.

Bugni also says the rest of the law remains intact.

It requires districts to use those standardized test scores to determine if a third-grade student had reading or writing “deficiencies.” Then districts and parents had to come up with Individualized Reading Improvement Plans to catch them up.

Many teachers and parents, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, say the law is frustrating and the threat of holding back a student doesn’t improve standardized test scores.

"I think it’s destructive actually," Whitmer said in an interview last year with MLive.

David Crim is a spokesperson for the Michigan Education Association, one of the state’s largest teachers unions. He says educators didn’t like the policy when it was passed, and they don’t want to see it again.

"We hope that smarter heads prevail when we get back to regular instruction and that they won’t put that piece back in or won’t insist that it be adhered to," Crim said.

Crim says he hopes the law will be fundamentally changed or repealed.