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Original article URL: http://bridgemi.com/2013/12/michigan-weighs-read-or-flunk-law-for-3rd-graders/

Talent & education

Michigan weighs “read-or-flunk” law for 3rd graders

How much is it worth to help third graders become better readers?

Studies show third grade reading skills are critical.

How well children read in third grade often predicts how well they’ll do in the rest of their school career, says State Superintendent Mike Flanagan. Students who are good readers by third grade dropout less, and are more likely to go to college. That means better jobs and higher pay over a lifetime.

But what if the cost of that better reading skill is an extra year in third grade? What if tens of thousands of Michigan children were held back a year because they scored poorly on a standardized reading test?

Are better-reading third-graders worth the $50 million annually that is the low end of estimates for students spending an extra year in school? Are they worth the half-billion dollars it will cost the state a year that is the high end?

Those are the questions being asked by Michigan legislators, who are considering bills aimed at increasing efforts to help kids falling behind in reading, and flunking those who still aren’t cutting the mustard.

“There is a moral imperative that we prepare our students better, and third-grade reading is by far the single criteria that measures success in K-12 education,” said Gary Naeyaert, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project. Read Naeyaert’s guest column in Bridge, “Making early literacy a priority in Michigan” “If a third of our students are not proficient (in reading in third grade) and are simply moving on, it’s a tragedy.”

The proposal

The two-bill package, House Bill 5111 and House Bill 5144, is similar to legislation in other states, combines intervention efforts to identify and work with struggling students as early as kindergarten, with a third-grade line in the sand: Score at “proficient” level or above in reading on a standardized test, or expect to stay in third grade.

No state funding would be provided to implement the program beyond money for a short-term pilot program.

“Up to third grade, kids learn to read, and after that, they’re reading to learn,” said Rep. Amanda Price, R-Holland, the sponsor of the read-or-flunk bill. “It’s the foundational learning ability that runs through all of academic experience.”

Last year, 35 percent of Michigan third-graders would have been held back under Price’s bill – that’s more than 39,000 Michigan students repeating third grade instead of the less than 1,000 who were held back.

Exemptions would be made under the bills for students with learning disabilities and for whom English is a second language. Students would have the chance to retake the test, and could advance to fourth grade through alternate tests or by convincing administrators of their competence through other course work they have performed.

“I don’t see this as punitive,” Price said. “The point isn’t to retain students, it’s to improve literacy. It creates a laser focus on improving reading skills.”

‘A terrible strategy’

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have instituted some form of read-or-flunk policy for third graders. “More and more of our governors are turning to this,” said Susan Neuman, a professor of educational studies at the University of Michigan and an expert on early literacy. “They like the get-tough policy. But it’s a terrible strategy. It’s blaming children when you should be blaming the system.”

Neuman agrees that third grade can be a turning point for students, but said that retaining kids can do more harm than good. Making children repeat third grade because of struggles with reading is treating the symptom rather than the cause, and is “an expensive intervention that leads to middle school malaise and high school dropout.”

Numerous academic studies have found that students who are retained in early grades are much more likely to drop out of school before graduation.

[Read Bridge Magazine’s report on Michigan’s 13,000 “redshirt” kindergartners.]

Those held-back students who do graduate will be in school an extra year, which is, at minimum, an extra $7,000 per student cost to the state.

Even with intensive literacy prep in early grades and exemptions some non-proficient students would receive, Naeyaert estimates that at least 8,000 third-graders would be held back – an eight-fold increase with a long-term cost to the state of about $50 million.

The Education Trust-Midwest, a nonprofit advocacy group, argues that a beefed-up reading assessment planned for next year will mean that even fewer Michigan third graders are likely to pass the reading test. According to Ed Trust-Midwest, next year’s test will be similar to the National Assessment of Education Progress test (or NAEP), which only 31 percent of state third graders passed last year. If that happens, a staggering 80,000 students could be held back, for a long-term cost of more than $500 million.

A middle figure assumes last year’s rate of reading proficiency on the MEAP. At that rate, an additional 38,000 students would have been held back, for a long-term cost of $266 million.

Big returns from more education

If holding back third-graders who are having trouble reading does help them graduate high school and go to college, there could be a substantial return on investment for Michigan. College graduates earn about three times as much as high school dropouts.

That is not only more money in their pockets, but more money spent in stores and more income tax for the state.

Whether such laws work or not isn’t known yet. Florida has had a read-or-flunk policy since 2003, and a Harvard study found that children who were held back in third grade were less likely to be held back in subsequent grades, but that an initial increase in academic achievement faded after five years.

Florida also has invested in intensive intervention for struggling students, said Michigan State University early literacy expert Tanya Wright. “What’s critical for struggling readers is to get intensive intervention on what they’re struggling with,” Wright said.

Early reading intervention is part of the plan here, too, though, currently in the bills no money has been set aside to pay for this extra instruction.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Thomas Stallworth, D-Detroit, would require the Michigan Department of Education to develop early literacy programs to help low-performing students catch up to their peers before the end of third grade. Parents of struggling readers would be given “tools to … engage in intervention at home,” according to the bill, while schools would engage in intensive intervention.

The third-grade retention and the early literacy intervention bills are tie-barred, meaning they both must pass to take effect.

“My bill sets the line in the sand,” Price said, “and Rep. Stallworth’s bill lays out how we make sure children don’t reach that line.”

The Michigan State Board of Education opposed the third-grade retention plan in November. “While we all agree that reading comprehension is of vital importance, (Price’s bill) focuses on mandatory student retention without specifying the need for school practices that reduce failure rates,” the board wrote in a statement opposing the effort.

“The entire board and the public are for kids reading at proficiency levels at third grade,” said Dan Varner, state school board secretary and CEO of Excellent Schools Detroit. “The issue is, if we’re going to make that a high bar, then we’ve got to provide the resources and support to schools and early learning and development programs, so the number of third graders impacted by that high bar is low, and those who are retained get the kind of intervention and support necessary.”

Varner suggests the state would need to raise the amount it spends per student in high-poverty schools to $14,000 a year in early grades “to have a realistic chance” for these students to succeed – a figure that is higher than the amount spent per student in most schools today.

Naeyaert counters that it’s unacceptable to put that high of a price tag on something schools should be doing already. “We spend $4 billion on K-3 education now,” Naeyaert said. “Reading literacy is the most important priority for K-3 education. One might argue that for $4 billion, expecting third-graders to read (shouldn’t be) an additional responsibility.”

To supporters of the read-or-flunk policy, the threat of third-grade retention illustrates that Michigan is serious about education, and carries a big enough stick to spark changes in state schools.

To critics, the lack of funding for programs to help struggling readers shows Michigan isn’t as serious as it needs to be.

“What legislators won’t admit is it takes more resources, more time, better instruction, and all those things lead to a different pedagogy for children at risk,” U-M’s Neuman said.

Changing trajectories

Price said she believes the bills have a good chance of passing the House, possibly in the next several weeks. “The chances are looking really good,” Price said.

As currently written, the read-or-flunk policy wouldn’t go into effect until the 2016-17 school year, meaning the first class to be affected is in kindergarten now.

“It’s important for families to understand how important it is,” Price said. “They don’t understand the dividing point of third grade. If you aren’t reading well then, you go in two different trajectories.”

How to change those trajectories, though, is complicated. Third-grade retention alone won’t fix Michigan’s education woes, admits Naeyaert. Varner similarly admits that money alone won’t improve learning, either. “We’ve got to get out of a political discussion where one thing is a magic bullet, and build a coherent system,” Varner said.

Senior Writer Ron French joined Bridge in 2011, after winning more than 40 state and national journalism awards at The Detroit News. See more stories by him here.

50 comments from Bridge readers.Add mine!

  1. Nancy Flanagan

    There’s plenty of research debunking Naeyaert’s claim that mandatory retention “worked” in Florida.

    http://www.du.edu/marsicoinstitute/policy/Does_Retention_Help_Struggling_Learners_No.pdf

    We have to be clear that this is a punishment–against public schools who will have to pick up the incredible costs, against teachers who choose to work in challenging schools, against children who don’t bring home-based literacy experiences to the table. This is a “solution” that feels get-tough to those who believe children must suffer to get them ready for real life.

    1. Dr. Richard Zeile

      Is all change to be regarded as “punishment”? This measure makes clear to schools that their priority is literacy. You misrepresent the issue.

  2. ***

    “Read or flunk”. Branded as a failure at such a young age and most likely carrying a chip on their shoulder about that stigma is probably not going to create a great learning attitude for the future.

  3. Dorothy

    The State of Michigan could get tough by requiring that any money received for at-risk or title 1 be spent K-3. Instead of taking on the adults, they have decided to punish students – they are cowards!

    1. Duane

      Dorothy,

      Do you appreciate the barriers that are created for the rest of ones life when they as a ‘poor’ reader entrying the 4th Grade? What is so bad about being kept in a grade to improve such an important skills? Aside from the sigma that the adults create for it. When you talk to an adult do you ask them if they were held back at 3rd Grade or do you talk about a topic that most people have had to read about beofre they can answer?

      I do not like the idea of legislation determining who should be held back, but in the vaccum created by educators resisting the establishment of standards with a mean to measure the achievement of the standards, or their lack of public outreach to explain the issues to voters or to include their taxpayers in seeking solutions what is left?

      1. ***

        “Aside from the sigma that the adults create for it…:

        You think it is just adults that create the stigma? Really? Kids can be very cruel in their comments about this.

        1. Duane

          ***,

          Do you rely think that stimagizing something or someone is instinctive in a 3rd grader? It is taugtht/modeled by adults. If kids have to learn reading then they have to learn social attitudes and practices.

          A personal example, it was about 5th grade when I found out I was ‘poor’, and all that entails, by and adult. Looking back I had all the trappings, holes in my shoes, worn clothes, we use magazines and rubber bands for our shinguards playing hockey, but we also had a lot of fun even being ‘poor’. The amazing thing we were having so much fun that we didn’t care that we were ‘poor’. I we had kids held back in our school (one was a friend) and almost nobody cared except for a few who were trying to bully kids in class and that was one technique.

          If you haven’t figured out yet I believe all the prejudices are taugth by adults to children and then they try to force them on their peers.

          In truth, I was a very poor reader when I moved on to the 4th grade, I am still a very slow reader, I would have benefited from being held back both so I would have had a different teacher (same one for 1st-3rd grades) and that my mind could have grown a bit more. If you that doubt that you should read some studies on how in the early developmental years kids develop at different paces and in a single year that develop can be so great that it can turn a poor performer with one group to a high performer in a different group.

          There are kids for reasons such as the maturity, the teaching methods, the peer group that can contribute to the success of a child that is held back (I watched it happen with a friend he got double promoted in 5th grade). What we should be focused on is the knowledge and skills success and less about the social images we project on the children.

          1. ***

            I see your point. Thanks.

      2. jlbh

        Dedicated educators are spending weekend hours analyzing data and planning instruction and intervention to meet the expectations with children they don’t have time or energy to explain themselves to the public much less on the legislative floor spend an afternoon in my classroom and see what were dealing with for yourself!

  4. Denise

    How about firing the teachers and have some accountability? Why wait for later grades to determine reading skills? First grade should give some clue as to skills. Why punish the student?

    1. Samantha

      Firing the teachers? How about look at the involvement from parents? Teachers can only do so much, without parents carrying out in the home. Classrooms are already crowded, and teachers don’t get adaquate time with the children. Everything is always blamed on the teachers. That isn’t fair. They are teachers. NOT free Childcare that the parents can expect them to do everything.

      1. Duane

        Samantha,

        If neither you nor any of you children have had a bad teacher especially in the early years, be grateful.

      2. Julie

        Parents are key!! We can only do so much as teacher.

  5. John

    Lots to comment on, but this one sticks out;

    “Naeyaert counters that it’s unacceptable to put that high of a price tag on something schools should be doing already. “We spend $4 billion on K-3 education now,” Naeyaert said. “Reading literacy is the most important priority for K-3 education. One might argue that for $4 billion, expecting third-graders to read (shouldn’t be) an additional responsibility.”

    Mr. Naeyaert, PLEASE show me that the $4 billion is spent properly before you throw numbers around. I’ve seen a legacy of lackadaisical investment, inconsistent oversight and muddled methodologies that has totally confused, stifled and distorted the efforts of early reading interventionists in my own public schools. Throw in some lazy administrators and you’ve got the symptoms of reading intervention deficiency.

    The latest budget cuts (local level but linked to state/federal influence) have now taken away precious one-on-one intervention hours, leaving an even larger gaping hole in place of consistent, purposeful and effective K-3/4 intervention efforts.

    So sad, so very avoidable. Put your $4 billion where it matters most. And prove to us you know how things really work at ground (student/child) level.

    1. Jane

      Why not start children in school earlier? PreK. I think 3rd grade is too late.

  6. Brian

    The decision to have a child repeat a grade belongs to parents in consultation with the educators involved. I thought Republicans were in favor of small government & local control.

  7. ***

    Kids who read well at a young age are most likely learning to read at home with their parents sitting down with them and reading.

    Too many parents just don’t make the effort in this area and think all of the responsibility to teach should be in the schools.

    They need to wake up and start being a responsible parent.

    1. John

      Really? When was the last time you were in a K-3 public school? Telling someone to “wake up” is an insult. You’re more “awake” because you have the time/education/motivation to read with your child? Good for you…and your child. However, interventions occur because children have the deck stacked against them for many other reasons than because their parents aren’t “awake” — economics being a huge one (for which the child has no control). Yes, responsibility starts at home — but schools have the obligation (moral and educational) to assist children in learning. That means filling the gaps where the parent(s) can’t, or won’t. Do you think reading interventionists really waste the energy to criticize the parents of children sitting across from them every morning? You need to wake up.

      1. ***

        Insult? Sorry but that is the way I see it. Filling the gaps, sure, up to a point but schools can’t do everything. I attended every one
        of my son’s parent teacher conferences from kindergarten thru high school and the lack of parental involvement was very noticable and sad. Of course there is always an excuse, some valid others just a lack of caring. Teachers can’t do everything. Many parents need to “wake up” and get involved more than they have been.

      2. Marcy

        I bust my butt at home for each of my kids … and DO NOT get the reinforced support from the schools… why should my child be penalized for where the school lacks in support. One of mine is a slow reader… she would be held back I’m sure…. but why hold back EVERYTHING when she only struggles with reading???

  8. Daniel schifko

    Am I missing something here? Why aren’t we identifying students with reading skills needs and putting them in fourth grade reading skills based classes? If our system can’t handle this without labeling students in a negative way or claiming to need more money to teach than we have an adult leadership problem. Teaching does require some effort sometimes, so does learning. Lets stop ignoring the fact that kids are not all going to learn at the same speed. We should stop giving attendance diplomas and start giving our kids a basic education. While we’re at it lets stop telling kids that college is the only way to a successful career. We need skilled trades in many fields for our society to operate. Basic reading, writing. and math skills must be the goal of our public education system. It doesn’t matter how awesome our advanced courses are if we fail at the basic goal of public education.

    1. Marcy

      I AGREE!!!
      I bust my butt at home for each of my kids … and DO NOT get the reinforced support from the schools… why should my child be penalized for where the school lacks in support. One of mine is a slow reader… she would be held back I’m sure…. but why hold back EVERYTHING when she only struggles with reading???

  9. David

    Another “solution” from Ayn Rand.

    I’m in my sixties and still remember a close friend who “flunked” third grade. Completely changed our relationship. Not sure he ever got over the trauma.

    Didn’t see anything about what happens if the student is still not reading proficiently after the second tour in the third grade. Still held back? How many times?

    Also didn’t see any mention of additional funding (no surprise) to provide the intensive 1-1 assistance that these students will need.

    The Teapublicans need to get out more often and visit the schools and neighborhoods that most of these live in.

  10. William Harris

    If literacy is a moral imperative, then we necessarily should back school retention with money. To only pass the punishment with no intention of actual intervention is to simultaneously set up a cycle of failure for students, and make a mockery of purported moral concerns.

  11. Dean Smith

    If all kids were robots this might work by changing internal programming. Its time to get the legislators into the classroom and talk with teachers on teaching/learning processes, classroom situations and related social and economic and ability of student backgrounds. Granted this is of concern but let’s look solving the problems and not legislate it.

  12. melissa

    I don’t think holding kids back to catch them up is realistically achievable. What about the second graders moving up? My daughters class size in 5th is 32 to 1 teacher, 3Rd was 29 to 1 teacher, holding kids back will only make that class bigger and more difficult for teacher. We need to broaden intervention. Start with mandatory preschool, my daughter has been in school since she was 3 and could read before Kindergarten, parents need to step up and stop pointing at the teachers. Also why can’t kids with similar reading levels be classes together, would be easier for teacher and for the kids to learn at their level. Right now my daughters class is mixed between the best readers and the one that have fallen way behind. If the class makeup were around the same reading level nobody would be way ahead and nobody left behind. It’s hard enough on teachers when the have 30+ kids but to expect those teacher to also teach kids on all different levels at the same time is ridiculous of us. They need support not mandates from the State or the parents. Parents need to be helping their kids, sound it out, get a dictionary, get a tutor. I think one of the sad possibilities is that some parents either lost or never had the skills expected of their children today, but that no excuse. With the world at our fingertips we must learn to mold and shape it for the future of our kids and in turn their kids. I think holding thousands of kids back in MI would be a travesty and it would have a negative impact on this state.

  13. Concerned Parent

    Has anyone addressed the obvious? Most respondants discuss the dollars on both sides of the argument. How about discussing the core curriculum. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat accross the table from a teacher and asked “Why can’t there be more CLASS time devoted to the basics?” The common response to my dismay is always, “We just don’t have time to devote to the basic standards”. My 3rd grader doesn’t need to worry about social issues, and rocket math. What they need is to learn the math instead of being frustrated that they can’t get 25 problems completed in 60 seconds. Reading, Writing , Arithmetic are not being addressed as core standards unlike when I was in school. What we need to do is SLOW DOWN and teach our kids instead of shoving them through and education factory with defects.

    1. Marcy

      I COULDN’T AGREE MORE! My middle child knows all her math facts, but bombs the timed test every time! Too much pressure.

    2. ALE

      A very good point- I also think that things like science, art, and social studies can be the material used to teach math skills, reading comprehension, and writing. You can use the other subject matter as the delivery method for your core subjects. While teaching measuring, go out and look at how trees grow. Plant a seed in the classroom and make observations based on math, prediction, and pattern recognition. Look at pieces of art and use them as the starting place for developing writing skills, creating artwork that develops interpretation skills, and letting kids do art for art’s sake and letting them write about what they did, or discuss what they see in artwork, thus allowing them to develop storytelling skills. Social studies and history are entirely based on reading. Use relevant and interesting reading material and kids will read- make these about fascinating historical figures and events, read literature and develop research skills through history, and kids will learn other subjects (as well as how to question what they are learning and how to research to back things up) as they develop core skills. I don’t understand how these things aren’t already just a part of the curriculum and I believe that part of the problem with education is that subjects are so broken up and disjointed from one another that our students never get the chance to make these connections- saying kids have to have x contiguous minutes of time in a certain subject doesn’t feel natural.

      I do, however, also understand that there are some classrooms in which behaviour management is a challenge- classrooms where teachers spend so much time trying to keep everyone on task and focused on material that is required and dictated by tests handed down from higher up that there just truly isn’t time in the schedule for truly innovative teaching. For these teachers faced with this challenge, I have the greatest sympathy and the utmost respect for those who stick it out, try to be creative, and do their absolute best to work within a system that is very hard on them. Tip of the hat to you folks.

  14. Barry Visel

    We raised 3 sons, 2 of which were special needs. From our experiences, a few thoughts:

    1 . Our 2 “special” sons had annual IEP’s (individual education plan) which identified their learning goals and intervention needs/resources for the coming year. Each year ended with an evaluation meeting and a plan for the following year. Parents, educators and other appropriate resource people were in attendance and signed off on the plan. It wasn’t always perfect, but it helped keep focus. I never have understood why ALL students don’t have an IEP.

    2. I believe “grades” have become meaningless. If we didn’t have “grades”, the terms “flunk” and “held back” would go away. As has been mentioned, students learn at different levels and speeds (on a subject by subject basis, even). How about trying the IEP process for all students? Some might even progress through the system faster than 13 years, thus freeing up funds for those that take a bit longer?

  15. Chuck Fellows

    “Arguably this separation by age is the most powerful division of all, (referring to the Prussian model of chunking subjects and ages) because it has allowed for the development of a set curricula and ultimately arbitrary but consensual standards of what kids should learn at a given grade level. Expectations move in lockstep, as though eight- or ten – or twelve – year – olds were interchangeable. Once kids were grouped by age, targets seemed clear and testing was straightforward. It all seemed quite scientific and advanced, and it proved very convenient for administrators. But little or no attention was paid to what was lost along the way.
    To state what should be obvious, there is nothing natural about segregating kids by age.” S. Khan “The One world Schoolhouse” page 192.

  16. Mother of a 1st grader and 3 year old

    An involved parent should know their child is struggling with reading in first and second grades; their child not passing a reading assessment test in third grade shouldn’t come as a shock at that point.
    If you break down what it takes to teach a child to read then I personally believe it’s pretty hard for a teacher with 25 kids in his/her class to actually accomplish this during school hours. Yes, they can teach letter sounds, sight words, sentence structure and punctuation, and how to sound words out, but beyond that, mastering reading takes practice, practice, practice. You need to sit down with your child and let them read to you and help them sound out the words they are getting stuck on. In order for them to broaden their vocabulary and “graduate” to more grammatically challenging books takes a reading helper.
    I think this legislation is a poor way of trying to teach the parents that aren’t involved to “wake up”. We all know when we pick our kids up from school or when we visit the classroom, or go on field trips…we can pick out the kids whos parents are involved and whos parent’s aren’t. Those parents need to stop blaming the teachers and look in the mirror. Don’t make your third grader suffer by being held back. I agree that they would probably never get over that.

    1. Marcy

      I bust my butt at home for each of my kids … and DO NOT get the reinforced support from the schools… why should my child be penalized for where the school lacks in support. One of mine is a slow reader… she would be held back I’m sure…. but why hold back EVERYTHING when she only struggles with reading??? I have been struggling to get an IEP for her as she is Bipolar… but they don’t see that as a “learning disability” if you read something to her, she retains it .. can pass a verbal test. but struggles with the reading. Therefore the school says she can learn… so she “should be able” to read… REALLY? so this enforcement would hold back a struggling non text book conforming smart child….

  17. Holly

    I really enjoyed reading all the comments on this article! I see some good points in each one’s contribution to the topic. Wouldn’t it be great if we could inject this type of public input into our legislative process? I’m quite sure that Rep. Price’s intentions were to increase reading skills at an early age. As a member of the Great Start initiative in my community, we know the positive impact of early education and intervention. I’m not sure that Rep. Price and her colleagues had the benefit of valuable input such as that shared here. With term limits and the fact that legislators can’t just magically know everything, it seems to me a conversation with teachers, parents, and interested citizens could be very valuable in ensuring the best possible legislative result. It just might make a valuable difference!

    1. Marcy

      Agreed!!! Copy past to legislation!!!

  18. Monica

    I remember the days when kids went to summer school if they “flunked” a grade and worked on their skills to enable them to move on. Maybe that option is gone. For 3rd graders I’d rather have a trained reading specialist work with them and their parents intensively throughout the school year to try to bolster their skills or have very small classes that contain only students who are struggling so they can receive more attention. And, yes, that requires paying the salary of the specialist or hiring more teachers at a time when schools are continually being asked to make cuts. I doubt the classroom teacher has enough time to spend working with an individual who is struggling when 29+ other students are demanding his/her attention. I know I would find it difficult, but I’ve been out of school for a long time. Maybe kids are now always well behaved and studious when given assignments to work on while the teacher helps a struggling student–but I doubt it.

  19. Donna

    My son has struggled with reading from 1st grade. We put him in before school classes to help him. We worked with him at home. All other subjects he was way above the standard. He has always had a great vocabulary. As a third grade student he was below the grade level. He is now in 4th grade and at or above reading level. I feel if they had made him repeat third grade his attitude toward school would have suffered. I could see if he was lagging in all subject areas then retain him but not just because he was behind in reading. I feel each student needs to be looked at as an individual. They don’t and will never all fit the same mold.

    1. Chris

      I agree!!!! Each and every child reads differently and at thier own pace. Every child learns diffrerntly and not all at the same level.

  20. Renee

    Let’s make education cool again. Talk about it constantly. Since the home is a child’s first place of learning, we have to emphasize reading at home, before Kindergarten. It’s not always up to the teachers to “catch up” children. It’s a partnership between home and school. People stopped smoking because of a national campaign against it. We can increase reading scores by the same means advocating for literacy. How much could that cost a year?

  21. barb

    Kids are doing so much in kindergarten that they aren’t even reading. With 30 kids, no time for individual help. Worksheets, math, more worksheets… I try to think back when I learned to read. I was engrossed and entranced with the Tom, Betty, and Susan books. I practiced the simple words, over and over. Also, my mother took us to the library every week. We had a limit of 10 books and I read all of them. I don’t have an answer, but flunking a kid isn’t it. They already tried that in Detroit. My grandson was a reluctant reader and his teacher gave her students homework and mandatory reading for 20 minutes a day. My grandson balked but my daughter stood firm and soon he was reading for hours and now reads for fun. There’s a parent connection here.

  22. Duane

    I was misled as a youth, back then reporters were supposed to ask the insightful question that drew out information that added to the readers understanding of an issue or events. Mr. French seems only willing to ask questions that have already been framed by those promoting their solutions.

    I wonder why Mr. French never asks about success; what it looks like, where it is happening, how it is happening, why it is happening, and who is making it happen. Maybe it isn’t his choice, maybe he never learned the importance of those questions or how to draw out the answers or how to find knowledgeable people (in this case those being successful), or how to listen when the answers are provided. Maybe it was his training, it could be the workplace culture/expectations, maybe it’s was his readers want. Whatever the reason his approach is not helping people to learn so they can change the situation.

    Without knowing what success looks like, how and why it happens, all we can glean from this article is political factions fighting for other people’s money and no way to tell if any of them can chance anything.

  23. Skip

    The “concerned parent” comments struck home with me. We are asking our schools to teach a curriculum at all grade levels that is a mile wide and an inch deep. We need to narrow our focus to allow our educators time to provide the kind of in depth instruction that allows students to really learn any subject, including the 3Rs.

  24. Duane

    I was misled as a youth, I thought reporters were supposed to ask the insightful question that drew out information that added to the readers understanding of an issue or events. Mr. French seems only willing to ask questions that have already been framed by those promoting their solutions.

    I wonder why Mr. French never asks about success; what it looks like, where it is happening, how it is happening, why it is happening, and who is making it happen. Maybe it isn’t his choice, maybe he never learned the importance of those questions or how to draw out the answers or how to find knowledgeable people (in this case those being successful), or how to listen when the answers are provided. It maybe the workplace culture/expectations, maybe it’s was his readers want. Whatever the reason his approach is not helping people to learn so they can change the situation.

    Without knowing what success looks like, how and why it happens, all we can glean from this article is political factions fighting for other people’s money and no way to tell if any of them can change anything.

    1. ***

      The article seems to me to be intended as a news report rather than an indepth analysis, what you are describing would probably fit
      better in a seperate essay.

      1. Duane

        ***,
        I agree and disagree. It was a simple presentation of information available, but it failed to show any effort to gain/provide answers to the tradiational questions, what, where, when, how, WHY. Especially since this isn’t a single event being reported on, but a string of events leading to a change in the laws. It reports on what people want and how they are divided and yet is doesn’t help a reader understand why the divide. It is like reporting on an traffic accident, simply telling that it happened and what people want everyone to do differently while leaving out why the accident happened, was it excessive speed, bad weather, faulty equipment, intoxication, etc.

        I thought Bridge and its staff were more about creating an informed reader,”Our goal at Bridge is simple: To better inform Michigan’s private citizens so as to encourage a vibrant state in both the private and public sectors.” I quite possibly misinterpreted this to mean more then simple reporting.
        I had a former employer that had us use these kind of goal/purpose statements to help us to do more than the minimum and to try to serve our customers in a way that they would be able to do better from our service than from that of others.

        Thank you, I do need different presectives on things such as this. Please keeping reading my comments and sharing your reactions as they always make me think.

  25. Dr. Richard Zeile

    I second the concern of my colleague on the State Board of Education, Dan Varner, that we are prone to look for magic bullets. 3rd grade students who do not yet read may simply be analogous to 3rd grade students who have not reached the average height- some may never grow while others will experience a spurt later, and not necessarily in response to any intervention. I would also question whether we can, by focus on the school, make up for what is lacking in home support. We might see better results by policies that encourage responsible parenting than by those which enable irresponsible parenting. The strongest aspect of the 3rd grade retention proposal is that it will redirect school priorities to the essential goal of schools. While I might run a school this way myself, I do not support it as a policy to all state schools because meaningful choice in education requires freedom to organize in non-graded, or other ways that may not fit what this legislation assumes.

  26. Chuck Jordan

    The best comment I’ve read on any forum like this one: “I see your point, thanks.” So refreshing. I do understand the passion. This proposal will cause unnecessary harm to students. Reading specialists and media specialists are being cut. How much is it worth to help 3rd graders learn to read? Why don’t we try it beginning at k – 3?

  27. john

    Better to hold a child back to get the necessary skills to read to learn, then pass them on and see them in our prison system.

  28. Allen

    The best place to hold students back that would cause the least stigma would be in Kindergarten. We should reform our school system that children enter 1/2 day Kindergarten when they turn 4 then when they are ready move them up to full day Kindergarten and finally when the student is ready for grade school learning (adjusting to the school day, being socially adjusted to classroom and having classmates, having the basic attention skills required to be in grade school) move them into first grade. Waiting to third grade risks an unnecessary social stigma that could be avoided if handled earlier in the process (not to mention frustration for the student, parents and teacher). Not all children develop at the same rate, some are ready at 6 other more so at 7, so waiting until they are ready for first grade to put them in first grade would be the correct course of action, let Kindergarten truly be a children’s garden and when they mature enough move them to grade school. Literacy is an important early education outcome and should be stressed and I am glad to see it is being discussed.

  29. Help kids raed

    I have read all of the comments, i very few people are understanding the main issue. problem is not entirely in our children, but in schooling system as well. teachers are failed to cope up with standards of educations. they need to improve their skills. they are the one who needs to be penalized not our kids.

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