LANSING, Mich. — Some West Michigan schools are now reaching out to parents, urging them to take action immediately after a package of education bills were introduced in Lansing.
The bills would mandate public school districts to retain or ‘flunk’ third-grade students if they don’t score at least proficient in reading, all while instilling early interventions on those same students. The bills passed the House Education Committee yesterday and those in support of it are hoping to get it voted on in the full house by next week.
Just this week the East Grand Rapids Public Schools legislative committee posted a blog to parents encouraging them to reach out to their legislators about the bills, saying state lawmakers in Lansing shouldn’t be making the call on who gets held back.
It is also currently an unfunded mandate.
John Helmholdt with Grand Rapids Public Schools says he’s happy to see a spotlight on third-grade literacy, but says this isn’t the way to go about it.
“Retention is not a proven device. That is an absolute last case, worst case scenario,” he said.
According to some reports, as many as 35,000 public school students would be impacted in Michigan if the bills pass.
The first bill mandates schools to hold back students. The second requires early literacy screenings for students from kindergarten to third grade. Back in 2012, 57% of third graders were proficient in reading across the state. Although supporters of the bills say they don’t want to focus on one single test score.
Jill Macauley, who works with teachers as a reading coach at Campus Elementary in Grand Rapids, says it can’t just be based on whether a student can read.
“There’s an even bigger picture which is the social emotional piece and the connection to a family and the background of each child,” she said, adding that legislatures need to trust teachers and listen to them.
Hemholdt says GRPS is already being proactive by putting reading initiatives into place to help students meet the states goals and he urges those in Lansing to just slow down a little.
“Talk to our professionals. We really do know how to do this if you would listen and allow us to help you with these investments we can get to the same common goal,” he said.
There are additional alternatives in the bills, including allowing students to retake the test under certain guidelines. It also doesn’t apply to special education students or students who study English as a second language.