Legislators in the House are hearing that the 3rd grade retention legislation may come up for a vote before summer break.
While the changes to the bills allow more flexibility, they still ultimately mandate retention for children in 3rd grade for up to two times, even though research on retention shows negative and harmful effects.
Further, one major issue still exists, which is that funding is not included in either of these bills. While HB 5144 directs the MDE to seek public and private funding for the pilot projects required in the bill and the legislature is directed to fund the programs, the bills themselves do not contain funding and are, therefore, still an unfunded mandate. Oakland Schools opposes the legislation.
Many legislators have concerns about the bills. The concerns center on the effectiveness (or lack of effectiveness) for retention as a policy, the unfunded costs in the bills, and the impact on schools of a large group of children being retained for up to 2 years.
HB 5111 would require children to be held back in 3rd grade until they reach proficiency level on the state assessment for reading. The substitute that was reported included significant changes from the original bill aimed at offering exemptions to the retention law for children under certain circumstances.
Further, the bill pushes off the mandate for retention by starting with children in first grade this year, thus giving districts a chance to move more children to proficiency through targeted intervention prior to a child reaching the 3rd grade retention requirement. The substitute allows the local superintendent to grant a good cause exemption to retention for the following reasons:
a) The pupil has demonstrated 3rd grade reading on an alternative assessment approved by the State Superintendent.
b) The pupil has demonstrated 3rd grade reading through a pupil portfolio through multiple work samples.
c) The pupil is a student with a disability and the IEP indicates that participation in the state reading assessment is not appropriate.
d) The pupil is a limited English proficient student who has had less than 2 years of instruction in an English language learner program.
The exemption can be initiated by the parents or the pupil’s teacher and must go through the principal and to the superintendent (or chief administrator for a charter). Children who receive an exemption and are enrolled in 4th grade must be provided with intensive reading instruction and intervention with specialized diagnostic information and reading strategies. Students may retake the grade 3 assessment before grade 4 for a second chance to show proficiency. The bill limits retention to two school years per student.
Finally, the bill was amended in committee to prohibit MDE from including a social studies component on the grade 3 state assessments or any pilot of that assessment in order to further the goal of reading proficiency.
Legislation with further interventions, HB 5144, was reported from committee as well. House Bill 5144 would require the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) to adopt policies and programs to enable more Michigan children to attain proficiency in reading by the end of grade 3. The MDE is required to submit a report to the legislature identifying reading programs that have been demonstrated to work and then MDE would have to recommend or develop a program that focuses on diagnostic evaluation, early intervention, tutoring, and mentoring.
Further for 2014-15, MDE would be required to implement a pilot program serving up to 400 K-2 students in up to four school districts. Local districts are required to help ensure 3rd grade reading proficiency by using effective screening instruments to identify students having early literacy delays in grades K-3, notify parents of identified children, use intensive intervention for those students, and submit data to MDE.
Click below to watch Oakland Schools’ video statement on the proposed bill.