Bipartisan Reading Bill Not Just 'Read or Flunk'

Prescribes early intervention for struggling readers

State Rep. Amanda Price has prepared legislation with bipartisan support that among other things would hold more students back a grade if they have not attained grade-level proficiency in reading — but only after repeated “intervention” efforts starting as early as kindergarten. The bill has numerous exemptions, including one for special education students. If passed, it would go into effect in the 2016-17 school year.

Rep. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor, co-sponsored what will be read in as House Bill 4822 when the House returns from a summer break on Aug. 18.

“Early literacy is the foundation of a strong education and a successful future,” Zemke said in a news release. “That is why this legislation, coupled with the recommendations of the governor’s task force and budgetary support, prioritizes literacy to help ensure that every young Michigander has an excellent opportunity to learn to read.”

Price, R-Park Township, said in a news release that the intervention programs begin at kindergarten and continue in first, second and third grades. An intervention would devote extra reading time for struggling students, assigning them to teachers who have been given the highest performance evaluations. It would also provide parents with a read-at-home plan, Price said.

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Thirty percent of fourth graders were not proficient at reading in the fall of 2013 according to the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) test results. The fourth-grade tests indicate how well students are reading at the end of third grade.

Gary Naeyaert, the executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project, said the bill should not be characterized as “read or flunk.”

“That is not the focus of the bill,” he said.

Instead, Naeyaert said the focus is early intervention with schoolchildren as young as kindergarten age.

He said the bill allows for student to retake the state test, take an alternative test, or show proficiency through a portfolio of successful work. He added that it has provisions for English language learners, and special education students wouldn’t be subject to being held back.

“This is early screening, strategic intervention and parental notification and involvement,” Naeyaert said.

HB 4822 is expected to be referred to the House Committee on Education, Price said.

In 2013, a similar bill received a lot of reaction because it called for some students to be held back in third grade if they weren’t reading proficiently.

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See also:

Michigan Schools Promoting Large Number of Students Who Cannot Read

Michigan Third-Grade Reading Levels Down Significantly