Few district students impacted by Read by Third Grade Law

A student looks thoughtful while writing and looking at her reading book.

With spring 2022 state assessments/M-STEP complete, the state has released the lists of third grade students it is recommending be retained under the Read by Third Grade Law.

For Dearborn Public Schools, only 34 students were recommended for retention and likely very few, if any, will end up repeating third grade after schools and parents work through the exemption process.  With more than 1,400 students in third grade, the number of district students scoring below the state threshold represents about 2 percent of students, which is less than half the state average.

The Read by Third Grade Law was passed in 2016.  It requires any student whose reading level is more than a grade behind at the end of third grade be made to repeat the grade, although there are several ways to avoid retention.  For example, students who are still learning English, who receive special education services, or who already repeated a grade would be allowed to start fourth grade in the fall.  A parent can also request that their student still continue to fourth grade.

“Generally speaking, forcing a student to repeat a grade is not the best way to help them grow academically, especially if that decision is based solely on their performance on one area of one standardized test,” said Dearborn Schools Superintendent Glenn Maleyko.

“We are glad to be able to advance our students to fourth grade because students, teachers and families have worked hard to ensure our students are ready for the next level,” Maleyko said.

The retention part of the Read by Third Grade Law was initially supposed to take effect in the spring of 2020.  With schools closed that spring due to the pandemic, implementation was delayed a year.  In 2021, the M-STEP was optional for students in the midst of a school year still disrupted by the pandemic.

Last year, Dearborn Schools had 71 third grade students recommended for retention based on their M-STEP results.  The results were after a year of mostly remote learning during the pandemic

The Michigan Department of Education reported that statewide 5.8 percent of third grade students were recommended for retention this year, compared to 4.8 percent last year.  Far fewer students took the test last year when COVID concerns made it optional.

From as early as kindergarten, Dearborn Public Schools provides additional support to students who are struggling in reading.  The district also works to keep elementary class sizes low, and teachers receive additional training in best practices for reading instruction, among many other steps the district takes to develop literacy skills.

Parents are also reminded that they can help their child succeed in reading at any age by encouraging reading at home. Practicing any reading helps strengthen those skills.  Tips for how families can encourage reading include:

  • Read daily to young children
  • Provide access to books they enjoy at home or through the library
  • Set aside time for reading each day and limit screen time to encourage reading and other more healthy activities.
  • Model reading behavior – let your child see you enjoy reading.
  • Incorporate reading into daily activities such as reading recipes, directions or road signs.

“Reading is obviously a critical skill to create lifelong learners and successful adults,” Dr. Maleyko said. “While we will teach students how to read, we need parents and the community outside of the school to encourage students to practice and strengthen those skills year round.”