Saturday, November 9, 2013

House bill would require schools to flunk 3rd graders

Currently the decision of whether to promote a student is made at the local level by teachers, principles and other professionals that know a child and have an understanding of his/her abilities and the larger context his/her daily existence.  A bill under consideration in the Michigan Legislature would mandate that any student who doesn't pass a standardized reading test would fail third grade.

If this bill were in place this year, a staggering 30,000 third graders would have been failed.  Should state flunk 3rd graders who can't read?,, November 4, 2013.
A state House panel could vote this week on a bill that would require schools to hold back 3rd graders who do not pass a state reading test.
Schools would have been required to hold back more than 30,000 third graders this school year if the measure was already in place.  As the bill is currently written, it would take effect next school year.
But opponents of the measure say the decision to hold a child back should not be based on one standardized test. They say it should be up to local schools.
“This would mandate. So no matter what the situation, no matter what was going on for this child, it was mandated. That’s what’s wrong,” said Rep. Theresa Abed (D-Grand Ledge).
“And I think we keep taking away any ability of our schools to function in an independent matter.” [Id.]
State Superintendent Mike Flanagan opposes the bill. The Michigan League for Public Policy testified in opposition to the bill noting this policy would cost millions of dollars and could end up failing as many as 7 out of 10 third-graders:
While we totally support the intent of the bill to increase the numbers of thirdgraders reading proficiently, we would contend the roughly $262 million that this proposal could cost could be better spent. (This amount is based on an extra year of K-12 foundation allowance of $7,500 x 35,000 students.) Furthermore, the cost could double when the state implements common core standards: Almost seven of every 10 Michigan fourth-graders do not demonstrate proficiency on reading skills on the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP). More could be incurred for students retained for more than one year—the mandate is silent on this issue. [Testimony to the House Education Committee on HB 5111  Mandating Retention for ThirdGraders Based on MEAP Reading Performance, Michigan League for Public Policy, November 5, 2013.]

The MLPP pointed out that students who are retained are more likely to drop out during high school.  Further, even in states which have mandatory retention, they have added other complementary programs such as "intensive summer reading camps, tutoring, smaller classes and reading specialists." The policy also sets an arbitrary cutoff line where one marginal student will fail where another marginal student will pass by virtue of getting one more answer correct.  The policy would also disproportionately impact low income students and students of color.  The MLPP also offered constructive alternatives:
If the Michigan Legislature seeks to improve reading proficiency among third-graders, it might  consider supporting intensive, evidencebased, well financed and guaranteed interventions that begin long before children reach the third grade. Unfortunately, funding for education has  been cut rather than expanded to address the need for supporting initiatives to promote better outcomes for students. Since 2008, Michigan has cut its education budget by 9%—deeper than  33 other states.  [Id.]
This is a troubling development we'll keep you advised of.


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