School Boards Urge Legislature: “Support—Don’t Punish—Students who Struggle with Reading”


Tuesday, May 17, 2016


School Boards Urge Legislature: “Support—Don’t Punish—Students who Struggle with Reading”

Growing number of school boards voice strong support for the Senate-passed version of “third grade reading” bill


LANSING, Mich. — The Tri-County Alliance for Public Education announced the first nine school boards to adopt resolutions supporting the Senate-passed version of the third grade reading bill. House Bill 4822, currently under consideration in a state legislative conference committee, calls for more resources to address literacy problems and reserves holding students back as a last resort.


“Holding students back is a very serious measure and should not be mandated unilaterally, and that’s why we support the Senate version of this bill, which puts that decision in the hands of parents and educators,” said Mark A. Burton, Executive Director of the Tri-County Alliance for Public Education. “Literacy is the foundation for learning, and we can’t punish students by holding them back when we really need to give them extra support to get them up to speed.”


While more are forthcoming, the school districts that have already adopted resolutions in support of the Senate’s version of the bill include:


  • Oakland Schools
  • Wayne RESA
  • Livonia Public Schools
  • South Lyon Community Schools
  • West Bloomfield School District
  • Birmingham Public Schools
  • Riverview Community School District
  • Clarkston Community Schools
  • Walled Lake Consolidated Schools


The Senate version gives parents a say in deciding whether their children should be held back. It emphasizes the use of resources such as literacy coaches and research-based intervention programs — rather than punitive measures like holding students back. Research shows that students who are held back may suffer lifelong consequences, such a greater risk of dropping out and irreparable psychological harm.


“Research on student achievement is very clear: individual, student focused reading interventions work. Holding students back and forcing them to be retained based on high stakes tests, with no input from parents and educators, will not lead to better outcomes, said Kenneth Gutman, Superintendent of Walled Lake Consolidated Schools. “We applaud Sen. Phil Pavlov for his leadership in supporting, instead of punishing, students who struggle with reading.”


The House version would prohibit students from advancing to fourth grade if they are more than one grade level behind in reading and don’t meet certain exemptions. The Senate version takes into account parental input and puts the focus on a holistic view of the student’s readiness for fourth grade rather than punishing them for low standardized test score like previous versions of the House plan. Under the Senate plan, parents could request an exemption from state mandated retention.