On March 1, 2015, Governor Snyder created the Third-Grade Reading workgroup (workgroup) to analyze Michigan’s reading proficiency at the third-grade level (reading proficiency), and to suggest policy to improve this necessary element of future academic and career success. For the past twelve years, Michigan’s reading proficiency has been steadily declining, while almost every other state has improved. To understand this problem and address it effectively, the workgroup reviewed data and programs from various states, and interviewed teachers, reading intervention specialists, principals, superintendents, professors of early literacy development, and policy experts who have all had significant positive impacts on reading proficiency despite challenges posed by child poverty. These schools, districts, and states are achieving early literacy using similar diagnostic-driven instruction and intervention methods which are individualized for each student (diagnostic-driven). National test results indicate that more than two-thirds of Michigan students fail to demonstrate third grade proficiency on standardized reading tests. Michigan must do better and should strive to be the national leader in early literacy by 2025.
Based on the results of the Governor’s Third-Grade Reading Workgroup’s strategy recommendations, the early literacy work at the Department must focus on:
- Giving students the research-supported diagnostic and screening instruments, instruction, and interventions necessary for success.
- Providing every educator with training to use diagnostic-driven methods with knowledge and fidelity.
- Engaging parents in developing their children’s early literacy skills through information, awareness, and outreach.
- Providing Michigan teachers and leaders with data that compares our status and growth over time and when compared to other states.
Michigan as a state is focusing on increasing the early literacy skills of our students. The Early Literacy Initiative is a major activity that the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) will work on over the next few years. Research shows that if students are not proficient in reading by third grade, their chances of becoming proficient are minimal. The MDE believes that to ensure the early literacy skills of all Michigan’s students, we need to develop and deliver an educational system that provides high-quality instruction to all students, provides regular information on student progress and strategically intervenes with research-based strategies when students fall behind. The MDE also believes that prior to children becoming students (at kindergarten entry), engaging and supporting parents and other family members in supporting language and age-appropriate early literacy development will provide the foundation for later success for students, as well as increased engagement of families in their children’s schooling.
The Early Literacy Initiative is a core component of supporting the implementation of College- and Career-Ready standards in Michigan, particularly in our earliest grades. The Department is making a concerted effort to consistently focus on the foundations described above and build capacity to support Districts on the key driver of student achievement – Literacy.