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      Bills could hold back 3rd graders who don't pass reading test

      The Michigan House put off voting on a bill Thursday that could force 3rd graders who are not up to standards in reading, to repeat the grade.

      The two-bill package, House Bill 5111 and House Bill 5144, is aimed at identifying kids' struggles with reading and fixing them at an early age.

      "If kids don't learn to read at an early age, that's going to be problematic for them all throughout school," said Kingsley Superintendent, Keith Smith.

      The bill states that students will be required to earn a score of proficient or above in reading on a standardized test before they can continue to fourth grade. Superintendents could have the option to pass a child if they showed reading proficiency on another test, in work samples, or if they have a disability or are still learning English.

      "As long as they get these scores back to us in a timely fashion that allows the kid a chance to demonstrate proficiency on another nationally norm assessment or a portfolio or some other locally developed assessment, then it's a good thing," said Smith.

      Suttons Bay Superintendent, Michael Murray, disagrees and says that it's a quick and easy solution to a complicated problem.

      "No I'm opposed to the bills because I think what we should do is recognize the complexities of the problem and attack the root cause rather than putting this artificial marker in place and then saying you pass or you go," said Murray.

      Those against the bill say that holding a child back can do more damage than good, but those who support it agree with legislators who feel it's going to help boost reading skills that are critical to a good education.

      "If you have grown up with a whole group of kids, they're all your friends, and your friends move on and you stay, the feeling is, "I'm not capable, I'm dumb,"" said Murray. That doesn't help in having a student challenged and learning to read because the student's attitude toward learning is a huge part of all this."

      "I don't think the intent is to retain a lot of students," said Smith. "I think the intent is to make sure that they get these other interventions and that they make the standard."

      The vote was delayed Thursday so legislators could hear from educators and do more homework on the issue. A vote on the bills could come next week before lawmakers adjourn for the year.