Sarah Lenhoff, assistant professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in the College of Education was quoted in Bridge, "Will Michigan 3rd-grade reading law hurt poor? Florida’s history says yes"

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Bridge, 5/17

Will Michigan 3rd- grade reading law hurt poor? Florida’s history says yes

By Ron French

Children from low-income and minority families will be more likely to flunk than wealthier white classmates with similarly low test scores under Michigan’s third-grade reading law, if the experience of Florida is repeated here. Florida implemented a third-grade retention policy for children not reading at grade level nearly two decades ago, in 2002. That policy ‒ which, like Michigan’s, provides loopholes for some students ‒ is markedly similar to Michigan’s read-or-flunk law that goes into effect next school year. A soon-to-be-published study by researchers at the American Institutes for Research and Northwestern University found that Florida third-graders with similarly low reading scores were held back at different rates, depending on the socioeconomic status of their families. While the long-term impact of holding children back a grade is mixed, the socioeconomic and racial disparity found in Florida should be a flashing yellow caution light for Michigan, said Sarah Lenhoff, assistant professor of education at Wayne State University. “This study is an important warning for Michigan lawmakers and educators as our state implements this new law,” Lenhoff said. “If children are given differential opportunities to use exemptions from retention, this policy could lead to greater inequity in educational opportunity between low-income children and their wealthier peers.”