- A report from Michigan State University finds 3rd grade reading achievement in Michigan has improved each year since H.B. 4322, also known as the state's "Read by Grade 3" law, was implemented in 2016 to address concerns over declining literacy rates.
- The law aims to improve literacy outcomes through instruction, early monitoring and identification, interventions and retaining students in 3rd grade if they don’t meet state standards for reading by the end of that year. According to the report, educators feel the gains are due to literacy supports embedded in the new law, and teachers who received one-on-one literacy coaching also felt their instruction improved as a result.
- While educators implemented many of the required interventions in their classrooms and found them to be useful and effective at improving literacy, some expressed concern that holding a student back over reading would have adverse effects on that child, the study found. In general, educators perceive the law negatively.
The Michigan State study takes into account data collected through spring 2020, just as schools around the country were forced to close their doors to in-person learning due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19. A year later, many educators say they won’t follow the law's controversial requirement to retain students not reading at grade level.
The state's reading assessment, which would have determined whether students could move from 3rd to 4th grade, was canceled last year due to the pandemic. Only 11.9% of Detroit Public Schools Community District’s 3rd-graders passed the reading test in the 2018-19 school year. Statewide, 55% of students scored less than proficient on the English language arts test. Researchers suggest the law could force more Black students, students with disabilities and those from underperforming schools to be held back in 3rd grade.
Though students may have been struggling with literacy before the pandemic, school closures only made things worse. An analysis from Illuminate Education found coronavirus closures will likely cause a “COVID slide” of two to four months. Significant gaps are expected in reading and math, with two months of learning loss in reading in the early grades of K-2.
Data from Amplify released in February suggests learning loss concerns were warranted. Kindergarten reading readiness is down nearly 20% year-over-year. In addition, 43% of 1st-graders were "well below benchmark" in reading, compared to 26% last year. Experts fear some of these students won’t catch up, but K-1 is the window during which to close the gap. The youngest students, especially Black and Hispanic children, are being hit the hardest by learning loss.
Not all districts are seeing extreme learning loss, however. For example, administrators in Pennsylvania's Parkland School District told K-12 Dive they didn't have significant year-over-year changes in test scores despite school closures. Success is attributed to strong at-home parental support.