Monday Moanin’: Repeat 3rd grade bill undermines teachers

(From the blog of Mister Journalism: Reading, Sharing, Discussing, Learning)

By Jeff Salisbury

Public School Educators (active and retired) & Parents & Grandparents…


By Nick Krieger (@nckrieger) from the “Fix The Mitten” blog (a condensed version)
Now that the Michigan Senate education committee has finally begun to consider HB 4822, I thought I’d repost my thoughts on the legislation, complete with a few updates and new ideas.
But first, here’s a rundown of what has happened with the bill since last fall:

On October 15th, the Michigan House of Representatives passed HB 4822 by a vote of 57-48.  Three Democratic state representatives — Harvey Santana (D-Detroit), Andy Schor (D-Lansing), and Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) — inexplicably voted in favor of the bill.  Meanwhile, a few Republican state representatives—including Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan), Pat Somerville (R-New Boston), Tom Hooker (R-Byron Center), Ken Goike (R-Ray Township), Kurt Heise (R-Plymouth), and Phil Potvin (R-Cadillac — voted against it.  This week, after several months of waiting, the Michigan Senate education committee finally began taking testimony on the bill.

In theory, HB 4822 is designed to facilitate the early identification of children with reading delays and to require a basic level of reading proficiency for all third-grade pupils in Michigan.  These sound like noble objectives, at least until you read the bill.  What’s so bad about HB 4822?  Where should I begin?

1.  HB 4822 would require public and charter schools to retain third-graders who do not score adequately on a standardized third-grade reading assessment.

  1. Historically, the decision to retain or promote an elementary-school pupil has been a matter within the discretion of local teachers and principals.
  2. HB 4822 would require a new, complex bureaucracy in every Michigan school district.  Among other things, the bill would require local administrators to (1) develop methods for the early identification of reading-delayed pupils; (2) notify the parents of reading-delayed pupils concerning their children’s deficiencies; (3) implement “reading intervention programs,” including small groups, individualized reading assistance programs, and recommended summer reading camps; (4) hire additional reading specialists as necessary; (5) implement “ongoing progress monitoring assessments”; (6) provide “read at home” training workshops for parents and guardians; (7) assign reading-delayed third graders to the district’s most highly effective reading teacher as determined by the teacher evaluation process; (8) implement a system for granting good-cause exemptions to certain students; and (9) provide written documentation and reports pertaining to many of these new responsibilities.
  3. HB 4822 would require Intermediate School Districts (“ISDs”) to deploy “early literacy coaches,” individuals appointed and funded under § 35a(6) of the State School Aid Act, who would provide professional development for existing reading teachers and train them how to teach pupils to read. If you think this sounds a bit odd, you aren’t the only one.
  4. Michigan Legislature lacks the constitutional authority to legislate in the areas of curriculum and teaching. Article 8 of the Michigan Constitution of 1963 confers upon the State Board of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction the plenary and exclusive authority to oversee and supervise all public schools, including matters of teaching and curriculum.
    6. HB 4822 just might violate the Headlee Amendment of the Michigan Constitution as well.  That is because it would implements costly new mandates without providing sure and sufficient funding to fulfill these top-down directives.
    7. The state of Florida has required third-grade retention for reading-delayed pupils for more than ten years. In 2002, the Florida Legislature enacted a statute requiring retention for reading-delayed third graders — a statute upon which HB 4822 is largely based. But a recent Harvard study revealed no evidence “that test-based retention in early grades is beneficial for students in the long run, even when it is accompanied by the requirement that students receive additional services.” That same study showed that any positive effects of mandatory third grade “fade out over time and become statistically insignificant within five years.” Last spring, the Florida Legislature decided to temporarily stay the enforcement of its mandatory-retention law pending further study.
  5. HB 4822, if passed, would burden Michigan’s public schools and weigh them down with new and complex responsibilities.
  • It would eliminate a great deal of local control over student retention and promotion, and would put in place a rigorous one-size-fits-all framework with very little flexibility.
  • It would require ISDs to send in literacy coaches to serve as a watch upon existing reading teachers and potentially confuse pupils with contradictory instructional methods.
  • It would divert needed money to fund literacy coaches while leaving cash-strapped districts without the means to decrease class sizes or implement one-on-one reading programs.
  • It would direct local school administrators to hold back third-grade pupils who underperform on standardized reading assessments, notwithstanding that those pupils might be brilliantly gifted in other areas or simply bad at taking tests.
  • It would send the false and dangerous message that Michigan’s existing reading teachers are incompetent and/or not up to the task at hand.  It would put in place unrealistic, across-the-board expectations for all third-graders, disregarding the fact that children learn to read in different ways and at different rates.
  • It would deal a blow to the confidence of many young children, causing them to dread school even more than they already do.
  • Lastly, it would continue the unconstitutional legislative usurpation of the role of the State Board of Education. Decisions like this should be made by education experts — not by elected legislators with no pedagogical expertise.

House Bill 4822 is Bad for Michigan!

Finally, some thoughts on the state of the economy and implementing a stepped-increase in the minimum wage

The nation’s economy is primarily service-sector based and low-wage. Sales clerks, food service workers, health care aides, office workers, agriculture, retail grocery and a slew of “temps” all add up to an economy where the majority are struggling to get by and where once “entry-level” positions are now careers. Nothing wrong at all with folks working their whole lives in those fields either. My father was in the grocery business his whole life. My mother was a retail sales clerk for her entire working life too. Two things are true — we can have a nation of low-wage workers, the majority of whom qualify for some form of government assistance (paid for by our taxes) OR we can have a nation of living-wage works who no longer qualify for some form of government assistance paid for by all of us spending a bit more for our burgers (so to speak).

The largest employer in the US when I was in high school 50 years ago was General Motors. Now it’s Wal-Mart. From a 2010 report: Among the ten largest employers in 1955 were GM, Chrysler, US Steel (NYSE: X), Standard Oil of New Jersey, Amoco, Goodyear (NYSE: GT), and Firestone. Today, four of the ten largest companies by total employees are Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT), Target (NYSE: TGT), Sears (NASDAQ: SHLD) and Kroger (NYSE: KR). And what do these new largest US employers have in common? They sell low-priced products sold by low-wage employees. Read more: America’s Biggest Companies, Then and Now (1955 to 2010) – 24/7 Wall St.

— until next time, I promise to keep reading, sharing, discussing and learning.






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