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Study: The inequitable effects of early-grade retention in Florida

Earlier this fall, Michigan lawmakers passed a law intended to support early literacy instruction, identify struggling readers earlier in elementary school, and to retain students who are not reading at or near grade level by the end of third grade.

Similar legislation was passed by Florida lawmakers in 2002 and has been coupled with substantial investments in strategies to improve early reading. Today, Florida is among the top ten states in the nation for fourth-grade reading.

A new study of the implementation of Florida’s third-grade reading policy looked at whether the policy is enforced differently based on a student’s socioeconomic status. Amber M. Northern, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Research at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute summarizes:

“[C]ontrolling for exemption eligibility, scoring right below the cutoff increases the probability of being retained by 14 percent for children whose mothers have less than a high school degree, compared to kids whose mothers have a bachelor’s degree or more. Analysts find that these differences are driven mostly by the fact that kids of well-educated (and presumably affluent) mothers are more likely to be promoted based on the results from teacher portfolios, which are the most subjective mode of exemption.”

As Florida demonstrates, early literacy legislation is a starting point, but much more will be needed in coming years. Only through thoughtful implementation of the law, targeted investments in evidence-based strategies, and the challenging work by talented educators can we improve literacy in schools across Michigan, for all students, regardless of background.

Michiganders raise their voice: Students need stability – not another new test

Over the past few weeks, Michiganders have sent hundreds of letters to the State Board of Education, calling on them to reject a plan that would change the state’s annual assessment for the third time in four years, mandate testing twice a year instead of just once for most grades, and further delay the availability of reliable and useful data to parents an policymakers.

Click here and add your voice. Enough is enough – Michigan students need stability, not another new test.

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