Third Grade Reading Legislation Passes Committee; Now Before the Full House

Jennifer Smith

By Jennifer Smith, MASB Director of Government Relations

DashBoard, Sept. 30, 2015

One of MASB's legislative priorities is to create reading intervention programs for early elementary students and to continue support for those students who are not grade-level proficient, but not require retention. Earlier this fall, Rep. Amanda Price (R-Holland) introduced House Bill 4822, which addresses reading proficiency by third grade. However, as drafted, the bill raised several concerns:

  • Not only did it include a retention piece, but one that would go into effect for all grade levels starting in next (2016-2017) school year.
  • It doesn’t account well for students who have Individual Education or 504 Plans. A 504 Plan spells out the modifications and accommodations that are needed for students with a disability to have an opportunity perform at the same level as their peers.
  • Students who are proficient in other subjects, but not reading, could have confusing schedules and conflicting assessments.

The committee did adopt a few changes to the bill before passing it, however, the main points of MASB’s opposition were not fully addressed.


The revised bill delays mandatory retention until the 2017-2018 school year, but that only provides one year of access to intervention programs. MASB believes this is unfair, particularly to older students, as the programs didn’t exist when they were in kindergarten, first or second grades, putting them at a disadvantage that is outside of their control. MASB agrees that the intervention programs should go into effect in 2016-2017, but if the retention piece is going to remain, it should only apply to kindergarteners and step up a grade level each year from there.

Individual Education and 504 Plans

There were also some changes made to the language around good cause exemptions for students with an IEP or 504 plan. The language now states that an exemption can be granted if a pupil has a plan that reflects that they have received intensive reading training. This language is still concerning to MASB and needs to be addressed to avoid unnecessary hurdles for students with a plan, as well as involving the IEP team in the decision to advance or retain a student.

Proficient in Other Subjects

The bill requires a student who is not proficient in reading, or at least one year behind by the end of third grade, to be retained at the third grade level. However, the student could be allowed to take some subjects in a fourth grade classroom. This could be confusing for a child’s schedule during the day, not to mention, possibly create conflicting end-of-year assessments. MASB has urged that this be reversed—a student who is still struggling in reading but doing fine in other subjects would advance to fourth grade, but would continue to receive proper literacy interventions.

Finally, we are urging a good cause exemption allowing for a parent, teacher and principal to determine the best track for a student who is still struggling with reading in third grade.

On a positive note, because the Governor is dedicated to raising the number of students proficient in reading, funding for intervention programs and other items related to reading proficiency was included in this year’s School Aid Budget.

The bill is now before the full House for consideration, but does not appear to be on a fast track at this time. We urge you to share your thoughts on this issue and the legislation, as well as examples of the successful programs being used in your district with your Representative. We will keep you updated as this issue progresses and will also send action alerts when debate on the House Floor is scheduled.

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