Michigan is sending thousands of 3rd graders into 4th grade despite more than half struggling to read.
Michigan State University’s education policy center released a new report detailing reading scores for 3rd graders in the state, calling attention to the troubling results.
Only 40% of students are fully proficient in English Language Arts, according to the state assessment, known as the M-STEP exam.
Nevertheless, nearly 95% of students are advanced to 4th grade, even the ones that aren’t even partially proficient.
And what happens to the 5% whose scores are so abysmal they’re deemed “eligible for retention”?
Only 2% will actually get held back, the report estimates.
Thus, of Michigan’s 100,000 3rd graders, roughly 58,000 will advance to 4th grade without being able to read very well.
“This reflects an ongoing trend of districts promoting students who lack the literacy skills to succeed in the next grade level,” Molly Macek, education policy expert at the Mackinac Center, told The Lion.
“This practice harms students and makes it harder for teachers to fill the achievement gap,” she continued. “If districts don’t implement policies intended to improve literacy, the percentage of students who can read at grade level will continue to decline.”
Being a proficient reader by 4th grade is vital, researchers say, as the milestone has been shown to be an indicator of future success.
“Kids who reach fourth grade without being able to read proficiently are more likely to struggle academically and eventually drop out of school,” reports the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “Low reading proficiency also can reduce earning potential and chances for career success as adults.”
She claimed the relaxed standard would “put power back into parents’ hands” and help students “reach their full potential.”
The previous law had been approved in 2016 by then-Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.
Michigan isn’t the only state where 3rd graders struggle to read.
Nearly two-thirds of Tennessee’s 3rd graders didn’t pass the state test this May, and Alabama is expecting to hold back over ten thousand of students, despite lowering the reading standards to allow more students promote to the next grade.