While the Michigan Department of Education lauded improved fourth-grade reading scores on the MEAP last week, the Great Lakes Education Project says the test scores from younger readers were shockingly bad.

The 2013 Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) reading results for third-graders showed that 61.3 percent of them are reading at grade level, down from 66.5 percent in 2012. Fourth-grade scores improved from 68.1 percent in 2012 to 70 percent in 2013. The MEAP is given in the fall and is supposed to be reflective of what students learned the previous year.

Gary Naeyaert, executive director of GLEP, said that for years, readership was gauged by the fourth-grade results, but the alarming drop at the third-grade level shows there is a need for the state to take legislative action to improve reading at the earlier stages. GLEP is a bipartisan, non-profit organization that promotes school choice.

"We wouldn't be throwing a parade for a minor uptick in fourth-grade scores when the number is still abysmally low and when third grade proficiency is actually going down," Naeyaert said. "We need to pass the early literacy bills."

School districts are promoting a number of students who cannot read. Legislation has been introduced that would attempt to correct the problem.

House Bills 5111 and 5144 were introduced last year and drew a lot of attention. HB 5111 calls for some students to be retained at third grade if they aren't reading proficiently at grade level, and HB 5114 offered ways to improve reading proficiency. The two bills are still on the floor of the House.

Naeyaert said HB 5111 would allow students multiple years of "organized education" including screening and school-based and home-based interventions. It also allows for exemptions, alternative tests and proficiency shown through a portfolio of work if the student has a disability or if the student hasn't been exposed to English.

Retention would be the last resort, he said.

"It's an important last resort," Naeyaert said. "But it's not the goal."

State Rep. Amanda Price, R-Park Township, introduced House Bill 5111 and said she was "dismayed and frustrated" with the third-grade MEAP reading results.

"We clearly have more work to do in our schools and at home to increase reading proficiency in all grades," Rep. Price said. "It is my determined hope that House Bills 5111 and 5144 would more clearly focus our attention on the importance of reading for our children."

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See also:

Michigan Schools Promoting Large Number of Students Who Cannot Read

Michigan Outspends Florida But Does Worse Than the Sunshine State