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Report: More Michigan 3rd graders at risk of being held back for poor reading test scores


More Michigan school children are falling behind academically.

The new report on retention eligibility under the Read by Grade Three law is based on spring test scores.

According to Michigan State University's Education Policy Innovation Collaborative, 5.8% of third graders were eligible to be retained based on their spring reading test scores. The rates were higher for African-American students (4.5 times more likely to be retention-eligible than their white peers) and economically disadvantaged students (4.5 times as likely to be retention-eligible than their more advantaged peers).

The study also found elevated retention rates for Latino and students with disabilities.

Collaborative director Katharine Strunk described the report’s findings as “alarming.”

“I think we know very well that student learning was affected in the pandemic and affected some kids more than others. So these results are very expected for us,” said Strunk. “That does not deflect the fact that they are also quite alarming.”

Strunk said there is evidence of some rebounding in academic performance and achievement. But she said it was not nearly enough to make up for the huge gap that occurred during the pandemic.

The Michigan Department of Education released the latest M-STEP test results Thursday.

Spring 2021 and 2022 MSTEP scores.
Spring 2021 and 2022 MSTEP scores.

The department said a majority of Michigan school districts showed improvement in their spring 2022 statewide test results over the previous year’s results. But the MDE insisted continued improvement is needed “to address unfinished learning in the pandemic.”

On average, from third to seventh grade, 54.5% of school districts increased their achievement scores in English language arts (ELA) and 4% of districts maintained their achievement levels compared to last year. For mathematics, on average, from third to seventh grades, 55.9% of school districts increased their achievement scores and 7.4% of districts maintained their levels.

“Last year was a stronger year for our children, given the courageous work of our students and staff, but we continue to have a lot of room for improvement,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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