Rumor vs. Truth: Here’s the scoop on the “Third Grade Reading Guarantee”

Categories: Education,In Case You Missed It

First introduced in October, House Bill 5111 – which creates a “Third Grade Reading Guarantee” in Michigan’s public and charter schools – has received a lot of attention, both good and bad.

But along with that attention, there has been some misinformation, and it’s time to set the record straight.

Rumor: This bill will force nearly 36,000 kids to repeat third grade next year.

Truth: House Bill 5111 includes a phase-in process to ensure we are not overburdening our schools’ resources. The “Third Grade Reading Guarantee” would begin with students enrolled in first grade in the 2014-15 school year and be implemented going forward.

Rumor: House Bill includes no accommodations for students with special needs.

Truth: In the past two months, Rep. Price and her colleagues have heard from superintendents, teachers and parents across the state, and because of their feedback, this legislation has undergone significant changes.

When House Bill 5111 was first introduced in October, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Amanda Price, said it was intended to be the opening sentence in a much larger conversation, and it has been exactly that. The H-3 version of the bill allows superintendents to take into consideration alternative assessments, pupil portfolios and good-cause exemptions for students with disabilities or ESL students. It also establishes “good-cause waivers” that can be requested by a student’s parents, with intensive reading instruction taking place in fourth grade as a result.

Below are links to both the current version of House Bill 5111, as well as an analysis of the bill:

Rumor: This bill is focused only on retention and not on implementing early intervention to help struggling readers.

Truth: This legislation is tie-barred to House Bill 5144, meaning that it neither could go into effect unless both were enacted into law. While HB 5111 establishes the “Third Grade Reading Guarantee” and lays out exemptions for it, HB 5144 enables more Michigan children to attain proficiency in reading by the end of the third grade.

House Bill 5144 focusses on diagnostic evaluation, early intervention, tutoring and mentoring, stressing parental involvement to help these struggling readers catch up to their peers.

Rumor: By holding a child back, we are destroying their self-esteem.

Truth: By making social promotion the only factor we consider when moving students on to fourth grade, we are doing a disservice to children in the long run. We need to address the issue of reading proficiency at a young age, so that we do not have to hold any child back.

Rumor: This is an attack on our public schools.

Truth: This bill does not attack Michigan’s schools, it just asks that they be held to a higher standard for our kids.

It’s time to raise the bar for our students –both in public schools and in charter schools. Thirty-two percent of third-graders did not meet the minimum reading proficiency benchmark in 2012, but less than 1 percent of the 113,000 third-graders in Michigan were retained in their public school. That means that 24,000 students are already starting fourth grade behind.

The goal of this bill is to turn that statistic around and ensure that a solid educational foundation is laid starting in kindergarten. Then we can build a truly competitive, top-notch education on top of it. It is time we make the “Third Grade Reading Guarantee” a top priority for our students, because our students are a top priority for the future of our state.

Up until third grade, students are learning to read, but beginning in fourth grade, they begin reading to learn. If we fail to teach our students to read, we have failed them for the rest of their lives.” -Rep. Amanda Price, R-Park Township