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MSU study finds increase in students retained under Read by Grade Three law

(file photo)
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
(file photo)

Michigan State University researchers say where students go to school may determine if they will be held back under the state’s Read by Grade Three law.

The researchers say roughly 10% of students eligible for retention were held back in the 2022-2023 academic year. It’s an increase over the previous year, and possibly tied to the pandemic.

For the 2022-23 school year, districts reported retaining 535 students under the law. This is 0.6% of all third-grade students in Michigan. This is an increase of 3 percentage points (or 45%) compared to 2020-21.

Katharine Strunk is the director of MSU’s Education Policy Innovation Collaborative. She said only 3% of districts retained all their eligible students, compared with 72% of districts that had eligible students promoted all of them.  

“Students that are more likely to be retained are in districts that had greater proportions of educators who thought retention was effective,” said Shrunk, “because they think it’s going to help them improve their student achievement.”

Strunk said lower-performing and urban districts, as well as charter schools, were more likely than others to hold back all of their retention-eligible students.

She also said Black students were held back at a greater rate than white students under the Read by Grade Three law.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.