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Third Grade Reading Law - Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ

Michigan’s Third Grade Reading Law &

What It Means for LPS Students

 

What does the Third Grade Reading Law entail?

House Bill 4822, known as the Third Grade Reading Law, was passed in 2016 by the Michigan Legislature and becomes effective during this school year.

It requires schools to identify learners who are struggling with reading and writing and to provide additional academic support.

The law requires that students who are reading more than one grade level behind, in third grade, be retained, and repeat third grade the following school year.

 

Isn’t there a proposed bill that eliminates the mandatory retention provision of the bill?

State Senator Dayna Polehanki, who represents Livonia, introduced Senate Bill 633 to do just that, but it has not reached a vote in the State Senate.

We are supportive of this proposed bill, as it maintains the remainder of the legislation which is focused on the efforts to support students achieving grade level proficiency, but eliminates the requirement for mandatory retention.  

 

What is LPS doing to prepare students and staff?

The law states that students who are identified as struggling in reading must receive targeted reading interventions, daily. Those interventions may be from the classroom teacher, an elementary support teacher, a Title I interventionist or a resource room teacher.  Our teachers are committed to providing this focused intervention for our students, based on their individual needs.  

Schools provide a block of time for additional reading instruction for students who have been identified as needing reading support.

LPS has purchased new guided reading materials for grades K-4, and trained teachers in the implementation of these materials.

LPS provides training for our teachers on how to differentiate for all levels of learners during reading instruction. Our staff, in turn, work diligently to meet the needs of our students. 

LPS trains all teachers on how to identify students who have skill areas that are below grade level and how to provide targeted interventions to improve those areas.

 

How do I know if my child is reading below grade level or is at risk of being identified for retention?

In LPS, all K-3 students are assessed in reading during the first 30 days of the school year, plus two more times throughout the school year. The assessments used by LPS are iReady – an online reading diagnostic – and Fountas & Pinnell, which determines if a student is more than one grade level behind and should be given an Individualized Reading Improvement Plan (IRIP). The results of those assessments are shared with parents three times per school year.  

 

When will parents be informed that their child is identified for retention?

The State of Michigan will identify students for retention by June 1, 2020 through a letter that will come directly from the Michigan Department of Education.

 

What should I do if I receive such a letter for my child?

You will be personally contacted by your child’s school if he/she has been identified, so that we may directly assist you with the request for exemption.   A parent has the right to request a good cause exemption by contacting the school district within 30 days of receiving notice of retention and we highly encourage them to do so. A good cause exemption must be approved by the Superintendent or her designee. There are a variety of Good Cause Exemptions (see below), such as being retained at a previous grade, having an IEP or limited English proficiency. 

 

What if I do NOT want my child to be held back?

The law provides parents with the opportunity to request a “Good Cause Exemption,” which can be obtained by contacting the school district within 30 days of receiving the notice of retention. We will work with you on the process for requesting this exemption and providing it to the superintendent for review and approval.  

 

What are the allowable exemptions?

According to the law, Good Cause Exemptions are allowed if:

  • The student has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Section 504 plan and the child’s educational team decides to exempt the child from the retention requirements.
  • The student has limited English proficiency and has had less than three years of instruction in an English language learner program.
  • The student has received intensive reading intervention for two or more years, but still demonstrates a deficiency in reading – and was previously retained in kindergarten, grade one, grade two or grade three.
  • The student has been continuously enrolled in the current school district or charter school for less than two years and there is evidence that the student was not provided with an appropriate IRIP by the previous school.
  • The student’s parent or guardian has requested a Good Cause Exemption within the required time period and the superintendent, chief administrator or designee determines that the exemption is in the best interest of the student.
  • The student is proficient in all subjects except reading.
  • A portfolio of student work that shows achievement of grade level standards in other content areas. 
  • The teacher requests with supporting documentation.

 

Does LPS and/or the Superintendent support mandatory retention?

No, we do not support mandatory retention. 

We do not believe that repeating third grade is in the best interest of our students who are more than one grade level below in reading.  Research is clear that retention is not an effective remediation, but instead a regressive option for our children.

We do believe that providing additional support, over and above what students received prior to and during their third-grade year, is appropriate and necessary.   

What is the process for a Good Cause Exemption in LPS?

  1.   A committee will review the request of parent or teacher and supporting information.
  2.   Discuss the recommendation with the student’s third-grade teacher and IEP team if applicable. Committee will review iReady and Fountas & Pinnell results; portfolio of student work; report cards and attendance data.
  3.   Determine whether the exemption is in the best interest of the student. Committee will recommend next steps for the student, based on the student’s individual needs.
  4.   At least 30 days before the start of school, provide a determination in writing, whether or not to recommend a Good Cause Exemption. The district, along with the parent, will commit in writing, their plan for the 2020-2021 school year.

 

How is LPS supporting students who are identified for retention?

We are committed to continuing our efforts, which are extensive, to support our struggling readers and learners. From establishing dedicated intervention blocks to providing literacy coaches for job embedded professional development for our teachers, along with individualized Reading Intervention Plans and data dialogues to identify and address the needs of individual learners, we are fully dedicated to the reading achievement and success of all of the students entrusted to us.

Additionally, 

  • Students will be matched with a teacher who has a strength in reading instruction.
  • Increase the time and intensity of their interventions.
  • Continue to collaborate with parents to plan for the success of their student.
  • Offer a summer learning opportunity that will focus on reading, along with math, STEAM and physical education.
  • Recommend strategies and activities for parents to use with their children at home.

 

 

Responses from Superintendent Andrea Oquist for a

Detroit Free Press article in September 2019:

 

What percentage of LPS students are currently held back in the third grade?

Zero students were held back in third grade this past year. Retention is not an appropriate option to utilize for supporting a student who is experiencing learning difficulties, or who has not yet mastered grade level standards.  

Does LPS expect that figure to rise, or fall, under the new law?

The district expects it to remain the same. 

Does LPS support the Third Grade Reading Law?

We believe in the intent of the Third Grade Reading Law and applaud the focus on this key indicator of all students reading at grade level by the end of third grade. However, the component of mandatory retention for students who have not yet mastered this goal is inappropriate and quite simply, not in the best interest of children. 

We will be utilizing all of the Good Cause Exemption provisions to support placement of our learners in grade 4 next year, while continuing the myriad interventions based on their needs.  

We are committed to continuing our efforts, which are extensive, to support our struggling readers and learners. From establishing dedicated intervention blocks to providing literacy coaches for job embedded professional development for our teachers, along with individualized Reading Intervention Plans and data dialogues to identify and address the needs of individual learners, we are fully dedicated to the reading achievement and success of all of the students entrusted to us.

However, we will not utilize retention as an option to address the needs of our learners. The detrimental impact of retaining a third grade child is significant, with long-range implications for their future as a student and as a citizen. We believe that each child learns at a different pace and may require unique intervention and support tools to help them achieve. We are committed to each learner and will provide this support.

 

What approaches to boosting literacy would you recommend to the state?

The state has received the findings of the School Finance Research Collaborative (fundmischools.org). All of our students and schools in Michigan would be best served if the state adhered to the recommendations contained within this substantial and meaningful report.  Adequately funding our schools based on this study, which determined what it actually costs to educate a child in Michigan, is the way we must begin.

This would allow us to positively impact students through supports such as lower class sizes and learning interventionists, as well as providing additional and ongoing support to our most at-risk learners. Additional recommendations to the state would include hiring additional literacy coaches and maintaining a consistent, comprehensive and meaningful assessment and reporting system. 

 

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