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STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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Detroit Public Schools cuts literacy program due to teacher shortage

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Students in Detroit Public Schools Community District will lose extra reading support as schools transfer reading specialists into classroom teacher roles.

Earlier this week I told you about school districts that are hiring virtual teachers to fix teacher shortages.

Not having enough teachers to fill classrooms can have a big impact on schools and the students who attend them - especially high-poverty and high-minority schools.

Well, that impact was felt by students in the Detroit Public Schools Community District last week. The district made the decision to cut a literacy program that it has used for more than 20 years because the program's teachers are needed in regular classrooms, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Reading Recovery is an intervention program for first-graders who have trouble with reading and writing. The students are given daily one-on-one lessons with specially trained teachers. Two hundred of Detroit's lowest-performing first-graders were supposed to participate in the program this school year.

Mary Lose is director of the Reading Recovery Center of Michigan at Oakland University. She told the Free Press:

We have abundant evidence if children are low-performing in first grade, and they're highly at-risk and they're in the bottom 10% to 15% of the first-grade classroom, it's very unlikely that they’ll catch up on their own just with classroom instruction.

The termination of the program precedes the implementation of Michigan's third grade reading law, which goes into effect in the 2017-2018 school year. The legislation is designed to improve childhood literacy. Starting in 2019-20, third-graders who are not proficient in reading will not advance to fourth grade. According to MLive:

To show they're reading at grade level, third-graders must demonstrate proficiency in one of three ways: Through Michigan's state standardized test, an alternative assessment, or multiple work samples that show competency on all third-grade English language art standards.

Research shows third grade is a pivotal year for literacy. A child's ability to read proficiently by this crucial time is a predictor of future academic success. According to Education Week:

A student who can't read on grade level by third grade is four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently by that time. Add poverty to the mix, and a student is 13 times less likely to graduate on time than his or her proficient, wealthier peer.

With all of the bad news that has come out of the Detroit Public Schools Community District in recent years, it's disappointing to see students lose something else that's so fundamental. Reading Recovery teacher Cari Chagnon told the Free Press:

(Students) just abruptly had their lessons discontinued. Our kids deal with instability at home more than the average kid. Then to deal with it at school in a completely preventable fashion is shameful. I had a kid say to me, 'How am I going to learn to read now?’

Paulette is a blogger for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously interned as a reporter in the Michigan Radio newsroom.
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