Dearborn Public Schools this week mailed letters to the families of all 1,500 third grade students in the District, providing them with information about the Read by Third Grade Law.
The Michigan Legislature passed Public Act 306 in 2016, but the law does not take full effect until this year. Current third graders will be the first ones forced to repeat that grade if their state M-STEP scores show they are a year or more behind in reading. Third graders will not start taking the test until late April.
“Dearborn Public Schools does not believe retention is an effective way to help students master a subject or to help them succeed at school,” Superintendent Glenn Maleyko wrote in the letter to parents of third graders. “Our philosophy is to provide your child with quality instruction from the time they become our students.”
The District letter explains that if a student scores below 1253 on the M-STEP, the state will send that child’s family a letter saying that the student should repeat third grade. State letters are expected to arrive by May 23 or 14 days after the Michigan Department of Education receives the assessment results. Parents should be aware the state plans to send the notifications via certified mail, so someone in the household will need to sign for the letter.
Parents who receive a state letter have 30 days to request an exemption that would allow their student to go on to fourth grade. The District’s letter stressed that parents have a right as a student’s legal guardian to request a good cause exemption. In the days after the state notifications arrive, all Dearborn Public elementary schools will hold a meeting to explain the exemption process to parents or guardians and to assist parents who want to request an exemption for their child. The law provides several reasons why a child would be allowed to continue to fourth grade.
Using last year’s scores as a benchmark, the vast majority of Dearborn Public Schools third graders would have met the reading requirement. Of the few dozen Dearborn third graders who fell short of required score, all would have qualified for an exemption for other reasons, such as still learning English. How this year’s third grade class will do now that the law is in effect is yet to be seen.
Dearborn Public School’s letter is part of ongoing District efforts to help parents understand the Read by Third Grade Law and its potential impact on students. Last school year, Dearborn formed a Read by Third Grade Community Task Force, inviting parents and others from the community to participate. Internally, the District has worked since the law’s passage in 2016 to strengthen its already strong focus on helping struggling students learn to read. That work included additional professional development for teachers, more intervention and assistance for struggling students, closer monitoring of student reading levels, and increased communications with parents.
“When a student is struggling in any subject area, we will support them with additional programs and early interventions to help that student be successful,” Maleyko wrote.