In an effort to help Michigan students reach grade-level reading proficiency by third grade, Representative Amanda Price (R) introduced House Bill 4822, also known as the Third Grade Reading Bill, back on August 18, 2015. The bill proposes that third-grade students who do not reach the minimum reading proficiency benchmarks specified in the bill are required to repeat third grade.

While the bill is full of good intentions to help Michigan’s young learners, English language acquisition teacher Barbara Gottschalk explains in her recent article how this law could do more harm than good for English language learners (ELLs). “At Susick Elementary in Troy, where I teach, English language learners who test proficient as fifth-graders on Michigan’s annual test of English language proficiency were often reading below grade level at the end of third grade even though they had been in a program for English language learners for three years.”

National research shows that children typically take 6-8 years to reach grade level proficiency. This bill simply does not allow ELL students enough time to catch up. As Gottschalk says, “Third-grade English language learners shouldn’t be retained. They are still learning academic English.”

An amendment was added to the bill on October 15th so that non-native English speakers of Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Hindi, or Korean might receive extra support from their school districts, which are “encouraged”, but not required, to provide it. Let’s hope that they are able and willing to provide that support, should the bill pass the Senate, for the sake of the 50,000+ public school ELL students in the state.

English Language Learners

The bill has already passed the House “with requirements that additional ‘intervention’ programs be created (including summer school) and individual tutoring provided before a student is actually held back.” But will this be enough to speed up the language learning process for the ELL students who are still struggling to reach proficiency at the end of third grade?

Research Shows GrapeSEED Can Help

GrapeSEED is prepared to help the students of Michigan, including ELL students, English as a Second Language students, and struggling readers, reach reading proficiency by third grade. Independent research shows that we are already doing just that for many students in the state. One study, including children using 22 different languages who received GrapeSEED in K-2nd grade and were assessed with the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA), showed that 75% of these students reached reading proficiency by second grade, or in half the time of the national average!

english language learner GrapeSEED classroom

If ELL students are going to be expected to reach reading proficiency at the same time as their native English-speaking peers, they are going to need a lot of support and encouragement. With the right tools, caring educators, and hard work, it can be done. Contact us to learn how GrapeSEED can help!

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