Learning to Read to Read to Learn: Why Preserving Michigan’s Third Grade Reading Law is Essential

The Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP) is preparing to tackle the heaviest challenges facing Michigan students this year through programs and policies that prioritize quality, freedom, and accountability. And at the top of the list is the third grade reading law.

Michigan’s third grade reading law requires schools to take accountability for setting students up for success – that includes developing personalized education plans, providing individual tutors and reading coaching, and a last resort retention step. And now, while the details of this law are up for debate by lawmakers around the state, it’s more important than ever to commit to standing-up for the policies and procedures that are most promising for our students’ success.

Our students need to learn to read in order to read to learn, and that inflection point happens at third grade. When students graduate third grade, reading progresses from a learning goal to being a learning device, and when students reach fourth grade their learning goals become subjective. If they don’t know how to read, they won’t be successful.

What we know:

  • Studies say that 88% of students who fail to earn a high school diploma struggled to read in third grade.
  • Third graders who can’t read are four times more likely than their peers not to graduate.
  • 7 out of 10 prison inmates can’t read above a fourth-grade level.

We need to remember these statistics when we head to the drawing board to develop education policies and programs. Making changes isn’t just important for our students, it’s important for the success of our state. Investing in Michigan means investing in Michiganders, and that starts with our children.

As it currently stands, the law is hanging on by a thread following a bill passed by the Senate earlier this month, on February 8, to repeal the law. Talk with your local legislators about the importance of maintaining and improving our third grade reading law for pushing Michigan toward progression.

By Beth DeShone, Executive Director, Great Lakes Education Project.