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Holding back third graders struggling with reading not "effective long-term strategy", expert says

Ahhh, the joys of reading.
Gulfiya Mukhamatdinova
Ahhh, the joys of reading.

Many educators and literacy experts are backing a potential change to Michigan’s so-called third grade reading law.

Current law states students who aren’t reading at grade level by third grade should be held back. A bill in the Michigan Senate would change that. Research shows that retention is not an effective long-term strategy in helping a child learn to read.

Nell Duke is a literacy expert and a professor at the University of Michigan. She says some believe third grade is the cutoff because that’s when most kids shift from learning-to-read to reading-to-learn. But she says kids can read-to-learn prior to third grade, and they don’t stop learning to read after third grade.

“And so for that reason, the rationale that third grade is this magical year, really, because of learn-to-read, read-to-learn, really is inaccurate.”

Duke believes there are good elements of the third grade reading law, but retention is not one of them. The best solutions are early intervention, additional instruction and making sure instruction aligns with current research.

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Josh Hakala is the general assignment reporter for the WEMU news department.
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