District fighting to keep students from being held back by reading

Posted at 2:38 AM, Mar 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-21 05:44:19-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- If your third grader is struggling to read, they may not be able to advance to fourth grade, because of a new law going into effect for the 2019 to 2020 school year.

Assistant Superintendent at Kent Intermediate School District, Dr. William Smith, says that the Read by Grade Three law allows school districts to hold students back if their reading skills are more than a grade-level behind. The decision would be up the parents, teachers and the school superintendent.

Officials say the new law is in effort to improve reading scores early on and help students in the future, as many kids don’t learn at the same pace. It also requires schools to test reading skills of students in kindergarten through 3rd grade, three times a year, and place them on individual plans if they are not at their grade level.

One of ways that is tested is through the M-STEP, which students take in the spring to see how well they are handling state standards. With so many snow days, Dr. Smith says getting students prepared to take it could be a substantial obstacle. To that end, Kent ISD is working with area schools to help families and students overcome it, offering support through early childhood programs, literacy coaches, and even diagnostics staff that help identify early warnings signs in students that may need extra help.

"Literacy is probably the most important thing we focus on in education because if you can’t transition from that third grade component where you’re really just learning to read, to that point where you’re using reading to learn, you’re going to struggle in informational text, mathematics, college and career readiness," Dr. Smith says, adding that third grade reading is an essential piece to growth.

Parents who are concerned about their child’s reading skills are encouraged to attend a free meeting at Kent ISD in Grand Rapids. Attendees will be able to ask questions and learn how to get their children prepared for the state assessment. That meeting is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 21st, in the Grand Room of Kent ISD at 2930 Knapp St NE.

For additional literacy resources, parents are encouraged to visit