Why Young Michigan Children May Be Held Back A Grade This Year

More Michigan third graders are likely to be held back this year than in 2021, here's why this is so important.

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner | Published

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Michigan third graders

More Michigan third graders are likely to be held back this year than in 2021. This comes after students scored lower on the state’s required testing to measure success rates. State officials are blaming the pandemic, but as learning recovery is being experienced at different levels across the nation parents and educators are finding that the approach to filling in learning gaps may also be a factor. 

Nearly 6% of Michigan third graders are likely to be held back due to low proficiency scores on the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP). This is a percentage point increase from 2021. Yet, most schools had already returned to in-person learning last year and districts have been directed to combat learning loss for well over a year now. 

During the pandemic, schools were given billions of dollars in taxpayer money but there was little to no federal oversight as to how these funds should be dispersed. This led many states to direct pandemic recovery funding to programs that did not address classroom health concerns, learning loss, or academic achievement at all. Instead of focusing on helping Michigan third graders to recover from months of disrupted learning, the state decided to expand socialized childcare programs and equity programs in schools. 

But Michigan third graders are not reaping the benefits of an equitable education. Black and Latino students are more likely to score below proficiency rates and be considered for grade retention. Disabled students and those who are economically disadvantaged are also more likely to be held back as well. 

Asian students are doing much better than students of other heritages, as are female students when compared to males. Michigan third graders are experiencing more educational disparities than in previous years, proving the lasting effects of excessive lockdown policies — which are likely to continue disrupting these children’s educational careers. Thankfully, parents and educators are working to fill in the gaps. 

Remedial classroom lessons and tutoring services have become popular methods by which families are working to help students fully recover. In addition, alternative education solutions are also proving helpful. Private schools, microschools, charter schools, and homeschooling options are often more accommodating for individualized student needs. Yet, Michigan third graders who remain in the public school system will need additional support in order to succeed, and the state has committed to offering that. 

Michigan third graders

Michigan third graders who work hard and fall below the necessary benchmarks to pass can receive a “good cause exemption.” This program allows students to pass even when they don’t make the grade, due to their likelihood of ability to catch up quickly. This applies mainly to English as second language learners who have only been speaking English for three years or less. 

Whether Michigan third graders can catch up this year depends on many factors. How parents and teachers address learning loss issues, and districts support families plays an important role. Last year, more students were eligible to be held back than in 2021 and that is a serious problem that cannot continue to grow if students are expected to excel within the system.