The state Legislature last week approved an early literacy bill that would require students in third grade to be held back if they are not proficient in reading. It now heads to Governor Snyder who is expected to soon sign the bill.

Beginning in the 2019-20 school year, students in third grade would not advance to the next grade if they fall a grade level or more behind in reading. However, a student may still advance if they can show proficiency through an alternative assessment, through work samples or a portfolio, or through a “good cause” exemption. A “good cause” exemption would have to be approved by the district superintendent and would only apply to students with disabilities, whom English is a second language, who were previously retained after receiving intensive interventions for two years, or for students that have been enrolled less than two years in that school who did not receive individualized interventions in their previous district.

Districts will be required to assess the reading skills of all kindergarten through third grade students three times per school year, including once within the first 30 days of school. If identified as needing support, students will receive an individual reading improvement plan within 30 days created by their teacher, principal and parents. Reading interventions would continue until the student is no longer lagging in the subject. Parents would be given a plan to encourage their child to read at home and schools would be encouraged to provide summer reading camps for students and must provide literacy coaches to deliver training to teachers.

Although the mandatory retention provisions will not be required of schools until 2019-20, many requirements must be implemented beginning in 2017-18. Beginning in that year, boards must select the reading assessment system to screen students from those provided by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) and also begin offering reading improvement plans and intensive intervention to students identified as deficient under the system. Schools must also begin taking steps to provide literacy coaches and other professional development opportunities to teachers.

MDE recently announced a second round of early literacy (K-3) grant opportunities. The deadline to apply is October 21, 2016 and more information is available here. If you would like more information on the legislation, the full text of the early literacy bill is available here.