News Story

88% Of Detroit Third Graders Below Proficient In Reading; New Law Held None Back

Law that bars moving along children who can’t read filled with exceptions

The Detroit Public Schools Community District has not held back any third graders under a new state law that says children must be able to read before advancing to fourth grade.

The law came into effect in time for the 2020-21 school year. It has been been opposed by the Detroit district as well as the Michigan Department of Education.

The law contains many exceptions to the policy, allowing Detroit to not retain any third graders based on the new law for the just-completed school year. Detroit’s district held back 38 of its 3,973 third grade students in 2019-20, according to the state of Michigan, but none due to the new law which was waived in 2019-20 due to the coronavirus.

Detroit schools released a statement: “The District does not believe that a single standardized test score should be the sole determinate of a 3rd grader being retained. Therefore, through the law, we used all available exemptions to prevent that from occurring. Students in third grade were only retained if families and their teachers felt that retention was in the best interest of students. Test scores were not used to make third grade retention final decisions.”

In an English Language Arts section of the M-STEP, a standardized state test administered to every public school child in 2018-19, the most recent year available, 88% of the district’s third grade students were less than proficient in reading. Of the 3,917 third grade students tested, 2,856 were found to be less than proficient in the portion of the test that covers reading.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.