LANSING — Today, Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia) introduced legislation to reform the state’s third grade reading law that, in its current form, could flunk 5,000 Michigan third graders this spring.
“As many as 5,000 Michigan students could be retained in the third grade based on their performance on a standardized test that they take this spring,” said Sen. Polehanki, a former English teacher with nearly 20 years of experience in the classroom. “Retaining kids based solely on a test score isn’t innovation — it’s regression. In this revamped legislation we retain the best parts of original bill, but not the students.”
Experts who have studied grade retention agree that, at best, it’s neutral. At worst, it yields negative effects on academic outcomes — including increased rates of high school dropouts, reduced college attendance, and psychological stress, even in elementary-aged students. Additionally, retention may disproportionately penalize African American, special education and economically disadvantaged students.
Senate Bill 633 would eliminate mandatory grade retention based on a student’s test score while maintaining provisions to:
“No two students are alike,” Sen. Polehanki said. “We must do away with this test-and-punish blanket retention practice, and instead give families and education professionals the freedom to tailor a path that is right for each student — and my bill is designed to do just that.”
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