ISHPEMING, Mich. (WLUC) - According to a recent report by Education Trust-Midwest, the state of Michigan has shown a large decline in third grade reading levels over the last three years despite a large amount of funding.
Since the 2014-15 school year, Michigan ranked last in changes in reading proficiency among 11 other comparable states who use standardized tests.
"It's a little surprising to me to see that the state of Michigan has declined. I think the state has put a lot of effort into a lot of programs, maybe too many programs, and therefore not enough emphasis in one area," says Principal Bernie Anderson of Birchview Elementary in Ishpeming.
In the last three years, Michigan has invested more than $76 million on early child literacy.
“I think it's a fair question asking ‘What is the results of investment?’ It's one thing to invest the money, but then I think there's an expectation that we should actually see results, and if we're not, then I think we have to have an honest discussion about what could be some of the problems out there, what's going on that this is happening and I think it all ties back to conversations that you have with a whole lots of things that are going on in our schools right now," says Senator Tom Casperson of the 38th District.
Birchview Elementary in Ishpeming, however, has taken a very proactive approach towards proficiency in reading with a literacy coach.
"Our literacy coach has taken the lowest kids that Title I was seeing and sees them and works with them in small groups to try and improve their reading skills. She's also able to go into classrooms and help teachers, help them evaluate their reading program, their teaching of reading and gives us a lot of tools to help us be more efficient and have better quality teaching," explains Sara Munson, a Title I teacher at Birchview Elementary.
The elementary school has also focused on intervention reading, where students are broken up into different groups based on reading level. They’ve also made both individual reading improvement plans and at-home reading plans, in hopes that they can close the reading gap.
"Reading, if a young person doesn't know how to read, certainly when they hit third grade, their likelihood of being successful starts getting slower and slower as they go through and they find themselves falling farther behind with their schooling and then ultimately their chances as adults in life," says Senator Casperson.
"As the kids get older and still are struggling with reading, it's not only hurting their reading scores, it's hurting their math scores because they're struggling to read the story problems, it's hurting their science scores, it's hurting their social studies scores, so it's something they need to be well versed in for everything in life. The sooner we can close those gaps and get them at grade level, the better off they are and the less they struggle. We've also found the more they struggle, the less they like school and we don't want that to happen so we're trying to fix these gaps early so that they can be more successful and have more confidence in themselves," says Munson.