Third Grade Reading

In Michigan, students who are not proficient readers by third grade can be held back, or retained.

Children who are kindergarteners in 2016-17 will be the first group of students that could be affected by the retention portion of the law when they reach third grade in 2019-20.  Extra supports are now available to schools to help all children be proficient readers by third grade.

What is this law about?

In 2015-16, less than half of Michigan third graders got a passing score, called proficient, on the  reading portion of M-Step. Public Act  306 of 2016 (now referred to as MCL 380.1280f) requires all Michigan third grade students not scoring proficient on the third grade state assessment be retained.

The law also states that a child may be retained in third grade if they are one or more grade levels behind in reading at the end of third grade.

To help more students be proficient by the end of third grade, the law requires extra support for K-3 students who are not reading at grade level.   Every district should have an identified early literacy coach.

What do I need to know as a parent?

Every child’s reading progress will be closely monitored beginning in kindergarten.

If a child is not reading at grade level, an Individual Reading Improvement Plan (IRIP) will be developed by the teacher. This plan includes:

  • Extra instruction or support in areas of need.
  • Ongoing checks on reading progress.
  • A Read-at-Home plan that encourages the child to read and write outside of the school day.
  • May be encouraged to participate in summer reading programs.

These extra supports in a child’s reading improvement plan are an addition to what is already happening in the classroom.  These supports will occur in small groups during the school day. Students will not miss regular reading instruction.

Who is going to be held back?

Starting in 2019-2020 school year, in order to be promoted from third grade to fourth grade, students must score less than one year behind on the state reading assessment, or demonstrate a third grade reading level through an alternate test or portfolio of student work.

The law includes a “good cause exemption” to being held back.  This is not an automatic exemption, but schools can consider IEP or Section 504 status.

If you are notified your child may be retained, you have the right to meet with school officials and to request, within 30 days, an exemption if in the best interest of your child. The district superintendent will make the final decision.

Additional supports must be provided for students who are not promoted to fourth grade.

What about students with IEPs?

An IEP and the IRIP are not the same and can’t be interchanged.  The IEP should not reference an IRIP, however, for students with significant cognitive impairments, the IRIP may reference appropriate reading supports, communication and language goals, that are specified in student’s IEP.  An IRIP has to address interventions that are available to all students with a reading deficiency who may or may not have an IEP. The IRIP cannot substitute services of an IEP, but provides additional support to improve reading proficiency.

The law includes a “good cause exemption” to being held back.  This is not an automatic exemption, but schools can consider IEP or Section 504 status.

More reading resources: