Michigan State Senators have a shortened workweek. They’re only in session tomorrow and Thursday. Not a lot of time to allow for debate and a vote on a plan to change the state's law covering retention of third-graders if they don’t meet state reading comprehension requirements.

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A Senate committee has approved a plan to put that on hold this year. But next year, resume enforcement of the law for third graders and also add the same mandate for fourth graders. Those who fail standardized reading tests must be held back and not allowed to move ahead to 4th or 5th grade. State Senate bill 265 is sponsored by Republican 32nd District State Senator Ken Horn. His district covers Saginaw, and parts of Genesee County

It’s been a contentious issue across the state. Letters from the State Department of Education informing parents and guardians that about 2,700 third graders don’t meet the requirements to move into fourth grade are just starting to arrive. Some parents and guardians knew it was coming, others are being caught off guard. Parents and guardians who receive the retention notice from the state must work with their local school superintendent to be granted an exemption or allow their third grader to be re-tested with the hopes of improved scoring.

The State Department of Education would be happy if the whole process was scrapped.  It is releasing a public statement to that effect. It includes comments from State Education Director Michael Rice who says, “Third grade retentions are bad public policy, and even more so if expanding to students in two grades. Local school districts need to work carefully with families to focus on reading supports and minimize retentions and the resultant adverse impact to children."

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