Michigan's Achievement Gap

PRE-PROPOSAL 1. Media Artifact

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

Infographic: Michigan's Achievement Gap

2. Persona and POV statement Persona: Persona name: Jaiden Wesley Age: 10 School/occupation: Cherrry Blossom Elementary School Location: Ypsilanti, MI   Quote: "I'm not sleeping, I'm just resting my eyes!"   About:
  • lives with single mother and older brother in an apartment
  • brother helps Jaiden get to and from school
  • is usually attentive in school but occasionally falls asleep during class
Goals:
  • play more basketball during recess
  • sleep in to avoid school
  • turn in all homework on time

 

POV Statement:
  • User: Jaiden, an attentive but easily distracted fourth grader...
  • Need: ...needs a way to improve reading level...
  • Insight: ...because he can't actively participate in grade level activities and feels excluded as a result.
 

 

3. Potential Solutions:

Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.

SOLUTION 1: Enroll Jaiden in after school tutoring with a reading specialist. This will allow him to catch up on the skills he is missing that keep him continually behind his class. Catching up him to the 4th grade standard will facilitate participation in the appropriate activities. 

SOLUTION 2: Require that Jaiden's mom go through the process of getting him diagnosed with ADD so he can be prescribed medication to be more attentive in class. Medication for ADD could help Jaiden in both not getting distracted and not falling asleep. 

SOLUTION 3: Add an in-classroom aide to Jaiden's 4th grade room who can spend time with him and other students one on one. This can mean additional time working on reading skills, someone to check in with when feeling unproductive, etc. 

 

BACKGROUND AND RESEARCH PROCESS Context

Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal:

The Read by Grade Three law currently requires that students who test beneath the NWEA 3rd grade standard be retained and repeat the 3rd grade, as well as create an Individualized Reading Improvement Plan and receive literacy help. 

Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan:

Making these changes to the current law affecting 3rd grade reading levels will keep students in under-resourced communities (that tend to be made up largely of people of color) from having significantly higher rates of retention than communities with ample resources. They will receive more targeted intervention that will hopefully raise the reading scores that these current decisions are being based on. 

How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?

Various experiences have informed this proposal, including those I've had volunteering at both Ann Arbor Headstart and Avalon Housing's Carrot Way, as well as a more recent internship with the Community Action Network of Ann Arbor. Through working directly with children from low-income households and speaking with community members who work to improve these childrens' experiences, I've come to understand that there are many significant barriers this population faces in the world of education. 

How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?

My time at Community Action Network has allowed me to speak to members of the Ann Arbor community who spend their entire day every day working to help the children who would be affected by my proposal, which has made the issue salient in my mind. These interactions have caused me to think more intensively about the current laws in place and how they are clearly not positively impacting the populations in question.

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

Infographic: Michigan's Achievement Gap

Consultations

Talk directly with at least 3 real live people who have special knowledge about this topic or the impact your proposal would have, and summarize their comments. These may include people appearing in your media artifact (video, podcast, etc.).

CONSULTATION 1: Laura Amtower, director of Community Action Network's Art & Design program: Laura spoke to me about how children in under-resourced communities are often significantly behind in terms of academic standards. She gave insight regarding how CAN as an organization focuses on summer retention of content learned during the school year, because children in these communities face the negative effects quite intensely. Another important aspect of the academic-focused work that CAN does with these children is the ratio of adults to youth. They often aim for a one-to-one ratio. 

CONSULTATION 2: Jennifer H. (last name omitted for privacy), current teaching intern at Erickson Elementary School in Ypsilanti, MI: Jennifer told me that of the 27 students in her fourth grade classroom, only five of them currently read at the appropriate grade level. This classroom, at Erickson Elementary in Ypsilanti, is comprised of a majority of students of color who come from low-income families. Jennifer mentioned that including other relevant information, such as recommendations directly from the teachers, would be helpful in informing the Individual Reading Improvement Plans. 

CONSULTATION 3: Jeremy Hogue, social worker within the family court system in Traverse City, MI: Jeremy works with parents and their children who are making their way through the court system. He was able to tell me about the involvement of the parent in the life of the child and how that was a solid predictor of academic achievement. Households that tend to contain less support also produce generally lower achieving children. He said that he has seen instances of kids being held back in school, and that it rarely accomplishes what is intended. 

Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

You must solicit a critique from a topic coordinator, and explain the impact that advice has had on the final draft of this proposal.

Upon meeting with Michael (professor), I was given positive feedback as well as some pointed guidance regarding consultations and who I should be seeking to learn from. That meeting helped me look more into current laws that are in place and think about how exactly they might be improved. 

Jillian Goldstone (TC) has also given feedback numerous times throughout the process on my proposal. Thanks to her comments, I decided to narrow my scope a bit to focus on literacy, and I spent additional time thinking about how exactly my proposal would be funded. 

Research process:

Describe your research process — indicate who you talked to (including but not limited to consultants), what you read, what your thinking was, how it changed over time, and how your consultants changed your thinking. This description of your research process definitely could include “dead ends,” or ideas you had that didn’t ultimately bear fruit.  In short, we want to know what you did and how it led to your legislation, and we also want you to give us a window into your thought process.

I spent quite a lot of time researching statewide education statistics that were broken down by demographic. This, and my consultation with Laura Amtower of CAN, allowed me to understand the real distinctions that exist in achievement between white students and students of color. After this, I talked with Michael Fahy (MSC professor), who helped me find a piece of legislation that has already been put into effect in the state of Florida. This inspired a search for legislation in Michigan that relates more directly to my initial ideas regarding the improvement of academic achievement for students of color in our state. After I remembered the little information I already knew about the Read by Grade Three law that's recently been implemented, I researched more thoroughly and spoke with Jennifer, the teaching intern in Ypsilanti. She was not at all in favor of this recent law and gave advice on how she would ameliorate it. My research on the current law lead me to some articles about the impact it has on families from low-income areas of the state, which supported my ideas and made me write the proposal in the way I did. 

Author contributions:

Please delineate--in detail--who made what contributions to the process and to the finished proposal? Who took on which responsibilities in researching ideas, drafting language, etc.?

I, Rachel Hogue, am responsible for all work presented on this proposal. 

FORMAL PROPOSAL

The sections below should comprise your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.

Preambulatory clauses

These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.

WHEREAS.... A child who is not able to read by the end of second grade only has a 25% chance of catching up by the end of elementary school (Gettinger & Stoiber, 2007).

WHEREAS.... Black students are more than twice as likely to be held back as white students (National Center for Education Statistics, 2006).

WHEREAS.... Promoted students have higher academic achievement, better personal adjustment, and more positive attitudes toward school than retained students do (David, 2008).

WHEREAS.... Individualized Reading Improvement Plans, as established the Read by Grade Three Law, use results from the Northwest Evaluation Association tests exclusively. 

(Add more "Whereas" clauses if necessary.)

Operative clauses

These describe in detail, the solution you are proposing (not the problem itself; those should go in the "Whereas" clauses above).

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED....

1.  The Read by Grade Three Law will be revised to eliminate retention and focus exclusively on Individualized Reading Improvement Programs (IRIP) and additional Reading Specialists in the classroom. 

2. Reading Specialists will be placed in Michigan elementary classrooms, specifically concentrated in under-resourced districts struggling with literacy.

3. IRIPs will continue to focus on goals specific to the struggling child in question, but will also take into consideration additional factors such as teacher recommendations and other running record assessments. 

(Add more "Resolved" clauses if necessary.)

Counter-arguments:

What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1. The Read by Grade Three law that's already in place was very recently implemented, therefore we do not yet know the kind of results it will have on the educational achievement of young people in Michigan. 

2. Allowing students to progress past third grade without the adequate literacy knowledge will only disrupt their own learning and the learning of others in their fourth grade (and beyond) class. 

3. The Read by Grade Three law already allocates literacy guides to each district of Michigan, therefore there is no immediate need for additional reading specialists in the classroom. 

Costs and funding:

What will your proposal cost (in direct expenses, lost tax revenue, lost economic opportunity, and/or non-monetary costs)? How will you pay for your proposed legislation? Where will/could the funding for your proposal come from?  Who might object to dedicating resources to your proposal (competing interests)?  

As the Read by Grade Three law already exists and has been supported by state funds, this proposal will simply re-allocate said funds and seek additional funding through grants. The state of Michigan has already dedicated large amounts of money ($80 million between 2014 and 2017) with no results indicating improvement. The most extreme difference in funding after the implementation of this legislation will be how it is allocated. More financial resources will be sent to under resourced counties that struggle more in academic achievement. 

References:

These can include websites or other information you have found about the issue.

Gettinger, M. & Stoiber, K. (2007). Applying a response-to-intervention model for early literacy development in low-income children. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 27(4), 198-213. 

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar08/vol65/num06/Grade-Retention.aspx

https://mea.org/learn-whats-in-the-new-third-grade-reading-law/

https://www.bridgemi.com/talent-education/michigan-spent-80-million-improve-early-reading-scores-went-down

https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/3rd_Grade_Reading_Law_FAQ-June_2017_573055_7.pdf

https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/Read_Grade_3_Guide_638247_7.pdf

 




 

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