GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Michigan law that could hold some students back because of their reading level may undergo changes.

State lawmakers in Lansing are considering amending a portion of the state’s third grade reading law, which was passed in 2016.

“This is a critical conversation that they’re having. We strongly support fixing the third grade reading law,” said Thomas Morgan, a spokesperson for Michigan Education Association.

Under current state law, parents and a child’s school will be notified that a student could be held back if they scored at least one grade level behind the third grade reading level on the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress, or M-STEP. Senate Bill 0012, which was recently passed by the Michigan Senate, would eliminate that requirement.

Portions of the third-grade reading law on interventions and coaching for students with reading difficulties are not impacted by the bill.

“We believe that having a mandatory retention piece in the law is not necessary,” said Brandon Graham, superintendent of Jenison Public Schools. “We have always had the approach that when we look at promotion and retention, that’s a partnership between our parents and our professional educators.”

During the 2021-22 school year, a study by the Education Policy Innovation Collaborative at Michigan State University showed that 545 students were kept back, accounting for .6% of all tested third graders.

Some lawmakers that support keeping the law intact said it sets expectations for children and there are also exemptions.

“One of those exemptions allows superintendents to waive the standard if in their own discretion it’s in the best interest of the child, but we must not do away with the standards altogether,” said state Sen. Thomas Albert, R-Lowell. “The goal of this law is not to punish kids or hold them back.”

Meanwhile, those who oppose the retention piece of the reading law said that retaining a child can have long-term harmful effects.

“Studies have shown that holding a child back can be as traumatic for them as losing a parent or losing their vision,” Morgan said.

Graham said he believes there are more effective ways to ensure students are up to speed.

“We have formative assessments that are constantly going on in our classrooms where we’re evaluating and putting supports in place to make sure kids are getting the skills, and development that they need,” Graham said.

SB 0012 is heading to the Michigan House, where additional amendments could be made.