Recently, state Rep. Amanda Price, R-Park Township, introduced a bill that would require students to meet a minimum literacy benchmark before moving into fourth grade. Another state representative introduced a bill in conjunction with Price’s that would exempt school districts with plans already in place, and would require school districts to develop programs to help children.
Currently, 32 states and the District of Columbia have policies to improve third-grade reading proficiency, and 14 states require students to remain in their grade another year based on reading proficiency.
Price said she introduced the bill because it’s important to be aware that 32 percent of third-graders did not meet the minimum reading proficiency benchmark in 2012.
Legislators are looking at third grade specifically because, until that grade, students are learning to read. After third grade, students are reading to learn, Price said.
“If we fail to teach our students to read, we have failed them for the rest of their lives,” she said.
Local schools have intervention programs in place and available to help struggling students.
Mary Jane Evink, the curriculum director for Grand Haven Area Public Schools, said it’s “very rare” for the district to retain students. She said she would be “concerned” about retaining students and not putting an emphasis on prevention methods.
“For those students who need extra help, we identify the areas in which they need assistance, providing interventions to help them reach proficiency levels,” Evink said.
Based on mischooldata.org, 79.8 percent of Grand Haven third-graders demonstrated overall proficient reading skills on the 2012-13 Michigan Educational Assessment Program. Of those students, 13.6 percent demonstrated advanced skills, 66.2 percent were proficient, 16.7 were partially proficient and less than 10 percent were not proficient.
Based on Common Core State Standards, outgoing third-graders should be able to describe characters in a story; explain how parts of the text create mood; and be capable of comparing and contrasting themes, plots and settings. Students should also know the meaning of most common prefixes and derivational suffixes, point out multi-syllable words, and decode words with common Latin suffixes.
Jeffers Elementary School Principal Shelley Peets said the legislation to retain third-graders would “greatly impact” her students by taking away their individuality and how quickly they learn. She said their focus with students is always about growth.
“We cannot expect all students to learn at the same rate as other children their age,” Peets said. “There is a lot of research that points to the detriments of retaining children and the long-term effects it will have on them.”
Mischooldata.org reported that, overall, 89.6 percent of Spring Lake third-graders demonstrated proficient reading skills on the 2012-13 Michigan Education Assessment Program. Of those students 14.8 percent demonstrated advanced skills, 74.9 percent were proficient, less than 10 percent were partially proficient and less than 10 percent were not proficient.
Before considering holding a student back, Peets said they look at numerous factors — such as age, birth order and academic ability.
Holmes Elementary School Principal Sandra Smits said they have benchmark assessments in place to see where students are in relation to grade-level standards.
“We can individualize instruction, form groups and provide interventions from this data,” she said. “We have grade-level meetings that allow us to discuss the data, needs of students and a timeline to make these things happen.”