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Reading help on the way

APS strives to prevent kids from being held back under new law

News Photo by Julie Goldberg Meaghan Gauthier, assistant superintendent of instruction for Alpena Public Schools, works on a letter that will be sent home to parents regarding the state’s new third-grade reading law.

ALPENA — Four Alpena Public Schools students would have had to repeat third grade if a new state reading law were in effect last year, a school official said.

Before state tests are given in the spring, however, the district has a plan to help students who could be held back, Meaghan Gauthier, APS assistant superintendent for instruction, said Tuesday.

“I feel like the district’s in a good spot to be able to know who’s being recommended for retention,” Gauthier said. “I just want to make sure that parents are informed because they need to advocate for their kids. I’m betting that the stress is going to be more on the parents, because nobody wants to hear that their child’s recommended for retention.”

The new so-called “third-grade reading law” took effect this school year, meaning that, if a third-grader is one year or more behind in reading, they could have to repeat third grade.

Gauthier said Tuesday that, after the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress testing window — April 27 to May 22 — families will get a letter within 30 days informing them whether their child is recommended for retention, meaning they scored below 1253 on the reading portion of the state standardized tests.

At that point, families have an additional 30 days to request a good-cause exemption that states that their child should be promoted to fourth grade.

“Once they get the letter from us, I will inform those families of what good cause exemptions are available and then they need to likely set up an appointment with the superintendent or his designee to request a good-cause exemption,” Gauthier said.

Kids can be advanced if they’ve received two years of reading intervention, their parent or legal guardian requests an exemption, they have less than three years of instruction in a school’s reading program, or other factors.

APS Superintendent John VanWagoner makes the final call on whether a student can move ahead.

But, before testing begins in the spring, Gauthier is sending letters to third-grade families this month informing them about the law.

If a child has received an individual reading improvement plan because they are not meeting the district’s grade-level expectations, they’re at risk of being held back, the letter will say.

“We use the data to determine what type of reading they need to have extra practice on,” Gauthier said. “They receive intervention for a minimum of three days per week at a half an hour per time. We do not pull them out of the classroom during core instruction, so during math or reading. We pull them at times that’s not going to impact their grade-level instruction.”

Julie Goldberg can be reached at 989-358-5688 or jgoldberg@thealpenanews.com. Follow her on Twitter @jkgoldberg12.

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