News Bite

Benton Harbor Schools Held Back No Third Graders In 2020-21 School Year

District cited in liberal nonprofit’s panic about law to restrict promoting children who can’t read to next grade

The Benton Harbor school district reports it did not hold back a single third grade student in 2020-21, the first year of a new Michigan law that restricts school districts from advancing third graders to grade four if they have not learned to read.

The liberal nonprofit ProPublica cited the district in a June 28 story about the new law. It stated, “The Michigan legislature had chosen this year, of all years, to enforce a strict new literacy law: Any third grader who could not read proficiently by May could flunk and be held back.”

At the end of the 2018-19 school year, just seven of 125 third graders enrolled in the Benton Harbor Area Schools were rated as “proficient” or better in statewide that covers reading comprehension (called the M-STEP English Language Arts assessment). The 2018-19 scores are the most recent data available.

Although not cited in ProPublica’s story, the Michigan law actually allows numerous exemptions that permit schools to continue advancing third graders who can’t read to the next grade.

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.