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Whitmer signs bill repealing 'Read by Grade Three Law'

The so-called Read by Grade Three Law, passed in 2016, stated that third graders may repeat third grade if they are more than one grade level behind.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

LANSING, Mich. — Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill Friday repealing a law that required third grade students to be held back if they had low reading scores.

The so-called Read by Grade Three Law, passed in 2016, stated that third graders may repeat third grade if they are more than one grade level behind.

While the law didn't require the student to be help back, parents or educators needed to submit a "Good Cause Exemption" to challenge the student's retention.

Now, the law requires that parents are notified if their child has poor reading scores that are more than one grade level behind. After being notified, the school is required to provide "a reading intervention program intended to ensure that pupils are proficient readers by the end of grade 3."

The program can include tools like screening and monitoring at school, read-at-home plans and in-school reading intervention in addition to regular classroom reading instruction.

"We are taking action to put power back into parents’ hands so they can work with their child’s teachers and make decisions that are best for their family,” said Governor Whitmer. “Getting this done will offer parents more flexibility and ensure educators can focus on doing what they do best—helping students reach their full potential."

Opponents of the bill believe that the Read by Grade Three law held parents and educators responsible if a child was falling behind in reading.

"This law held adults accountable, which led kids to receiving extra attention if they needed it because they were falling behind," Republican Senator Thomas Albert said in a statement to the Senate advocating against the change. "Kids are more likely to achieve and succeed when they are expected to achieve and succeed."

The M-STEP test, which includes the reading assessment test, is given to third grade students every spring in Michigan.

The Read by Grade Three Law didn't go into effect until the 2019-2020 school year and was put on pause during the coronavirus pandemic. The law only recently came back into effect, prior to being repealed last week.

The repeal of the law passed mainly on party lines, with all Democrats and one Republican senator voting in favor. Governor Whitmer signed it into law on Friday.

"We’ve prioritized our students' academic and emotional needs by removing the punitive retention requirement from the third-grade reading law. Moving ahead, we look forward to further efforts at ensuring we have a preK-12 literacy support system that helps educators support every student in becoming an excellent reader and a lifelong learner,” said Paula Herbart, a longtime teacher from Macomb County and president of the Michigan Education Association. 

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