3rd Graders Falling Behind



  PRE-PROPOSAL 1. Media Artifact


2. Persona and POV statement


Persona name: Sharon Cohen

Age: 52

School/occupation: Elementary School Principal

Location: Detroit 

Quote: “The school I am a principal for doesn't have the adequate funding, resources, or tools I need to be able to effectively enhance my students' reading abilities. There is only so much that teachers and faculty can do in a school day. The government needs to help provide our district with the funds and resources necessary to implement after school reading programs.” 


·      Has been the Principal of school in Detroit for 5 years. After the recent change to the law regarding third grade students, she has watched as many of the students in his community are falling behind. 

·      Often brings in spare books from home to hand out to students, due to lack of materials provided by the school.

·      Sets up meetings for families and students to discuss what to do at home.


·      Help students achieve their highest potential and not repeat 3rd grade 

·      Implement new programs to facilitate students' reading abilities

·      Close the education gap between higher and lower income schools

POV Statement:

·      User: Sharon, a principal in a Detroit school district, wants to help improve the reading abilities of all third graders in her school.

·      Need: She needs a way to implement new ideas and programs to help improve her students' reading abilities. 

·      Insight: Since she is not a teacher in the classroom, it is hard for her to oversee and monitor everything that the teachers in the classrooms are doing for their students. She lacks the ability to gain adequate resources and funding to this school district. 

3. Potential Solutions:

SOLUTION 1: One solution we propose will address how the faculty is teaching the curriculum. As the principle, Sharon will hire outside reading professionals to monitor how the current reading curriculum is being taught, and will give their expert advice on whether it is efficient in comparison to other districts that have higher reading levels. They will then report back to Sharon, who will propose new ways to present the curriculum to the students. 

SOLUTION 2:  Our second and most out of the box solution is to implement an after-school program for children interested in reading with a furry companion. Studies have shown that reading aloud to dogs improves children’s reading-aloud confidence and their overall reading comprehension. This improved confidence encourages them to love books and reading, which is critical in their elementary school years. Reading proficiently by the end of the third grade is considered a “make it or break it” benchmark, and 83 percent of children who are not reading on grade level by the beginning of fourth grade are at risk of failing to graduate from high school on time. Furthermore, this will help students increase the amount of reading time outside of school. In many lower income school districts, both parents or guardians are working day and night. This leaves the child to read to themselves. The implementation of an after-school program will increase students' reading time outside of school. The goal is for the student to feel more comfortable reading aloud. We plan to work with the local animal shelter, the Humane Society of Huron Valley. Below we have written some of the necessary components we will need to implement this program.

1. Relationship with Human Society of Hurone Valley (they have a classroom like room in their facility where the program will take place, and they will provide the dogs/puppies)

2. Transportation from the school to the animal shelter and back. We also will need transportation for students who don't have someone available to pick them up afterwards and drive them home.

3. Reading materials and staff(teachers or other school employees)

SOLUTION 3: A third solution that we created is for there to be reading workshops during the school day at least twice a week. These workshops will be taking place during half of the time allotted for recess after lunch. Within this session a variety of reading activities will be present such as reading stories, sounding out words, and asking for help when necessary. Also, we think it would be a good idea for students to become comfortable with their school’s library at such a young age. They should have the option of picking out different books that they are interested in reading and should learn the overall scheme of their library. In these types of workshops, teachers can be able to recognize what challenges the children, what causes problems, and what the children are good at. In that way, teachers can give specific homework to children that is directly catered to what they are struggling with every single night. 


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

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: In the State of Michigan 98th Legislature the House Bill # 4822 was created in 2016 to be put into effect in 2020. Through this law, all third graders who are not at the proposed reading level will have to repeat the third grade. This will be to ensure that all of the students score at least proficient in  English Language Arts on the third grade state assessment. When this law is put into effect, it can create a lot of problems for students who are in lower SES groups who may not have the adequate resources to make sure that their children are up to par on their reading skills. In comparison to the other kids who have these resources, these less fortunate kids are placed at a disadantage and may have to repeat the third grade multiple times before they are at the level they are "supposed to be at." This can create a lot of problems for them down the line such as developing a poor self esteem, self doubt, academic failures in the future, and so on. Our proposal includes ways for us to make sure that children of all SES, ethnicities, and from all regions in Michigan are given equal opportunities. Our goal is for none of these children to be held back. We hope that with additional services in both the school districts and homes, hopefully allocated by the government, children will have better opportunities to excel and succeed in reading and other areas of learning! 

How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal? We learned about the issues underlying our proposal through countless research that we embarked on. When picking a topic, we both were very drawn to children. We both think that helping children at a young age and early intervention can make a huge difference down the road as they grow up to be adolescents and adults. We decided to do some research on education and found this law that we both strongly did not agree with. We did not find it fair that just because some schools and some children may  not have the same resources as others that they should have to pay the price and repeat a grade. Instead, more of the force should be placed on the teachers, school districts, and government to help make a change. 

How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal? While both of our service activities did not directly have to do with reading or education, we interacted with children in both. Through my service project at Food Gatheres, I(Bailey) saw first hand how many children came in with their families. i was shocked to see how common it was for children to not have resources, such as food, that should be attainable for all children. Through my(Juliette) service project, I really got to see the impact dogs have on people, especially children. The shelter holds an after school reading program in their education center, and I could really see how excited the kids were to get to read with the pets. Many of the moms discussed how their child is often extremely shy in a classroom setting, but the presence of the dog really relaxed them. 

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue: Our media artifact discussed a lot of the research that we saw regarding education in differnet schools. We learned very quickly how truly big of a problem this is in Michigan. We also saw the pattern that these students were generally seen in school districts that were in lower SES and had fewer resources. This led us to want to focus our attention on the students in these areas. We want to bring their ability up to where other students in more fortuante areas are. 



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: Sharon Ingber: 3rd/4thgrade elementary school teacher: We spoke to Sharon Ingber who used to teach 3rdand 4thgrade students in New Jersey. She expressed to us the many concerns she had with the faculty, specifically her principal. Sharon believed that the principal needed to implement programs that would facilitate students falling behind in reading, social studies, math, and science. The principal of her school district explained that they didn’t have the necessary funding to fund these after school programs. Furthermore, we spoke to Sharon about some of our proposed solutions to the problems going on in Michigan Elementary Schools, specifically with 3rdgrade students and their reading abilities. We explained to Sharon the idea we had about bringing students who are falling behind in reading, or students who are interested in joining, to the Humane Society of Huron Valley animal shelter after school. We explained the benefits students would gain from reading read aloud in front of a furry companion. She thought this was an unbelievable idea. Sharon expressed to us that "The ability to read aloud is an essential part of students growing their reading abilities." She further explained that some of her students' reading abilities were hindered because they did not feel comfortable reading aloud in front of the class. 

Consultation 2: Selma Handell Elementary School Teacher in Brooklyn, NYC for 40 years. The school district that she worked in was one in which many of the students were of different races and SES backgrounds. She noticed, just as we found in our research, that there was a huge disparity in those children who were able to read and those who were not. She found that the ones that were from a lower SES had more difficulty reading and continuing their studies at home. When we told her about the possible idea we had of having workshops during the school day she thought that this was a really good idea. She actually said, “I remember in my own school, many of the children would have to leave after school so after school learning was not an option. I think these workshops taking place during the school day is a really good strategy to make sure that kids can actually attend.” After we informed her about the new third grade retention law that is taking place, she thought that our proposal and solutions would be a great way to increase student’s reading abilities and love for reading. 


We spoke to Tawn Hinze, one of the volunteer coordinators at The Humane Society of Huron Valley. She believes that our solution Clifford the Big Re(a)d Dog would be an amazing program that would not only help students, but the animals too! She has seen first hand how reading in front of a dog really calms the kids down and gives them confidence. She said she would love to work with us in the future in implementing the program around the greater Ann Arbor Area school districts. 

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.

After speaking with James this past week, we were able to see that our intitial preambulatory and operative clauses were not done correctly. He led us to see that we were not focused in on one solution as we were supposed to be, but instead had three seperate problems along with three separate solutions. After talking to James, he made it very clear as to what these clauses were supposed to contain. Once we had this information, we edited all of them to be about the same major focus. Additionallym he felt that we should try not to focus so much on funding. Our main solution, we decided, would be about bringing the children to the animal shelter to make them more comfortable and less anxious while reading. We hope that this will help them improve their grades and allow them to not have to repeat the third grade. Meeting with James was very insightful and allowed us to gain a broader understanding of what our final proposal was suposed to look like. 

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.

Our process has been a difficult and confusing one.

The first phase of our research started with the finding of a proposed bill in Michigan. The Read By Grade Three Law, which will be implemented in the upcoming school year throughout the state. This law would force many Michigan students to repeat grade 3, if they did not pass the reading test. We originally wanted to focus directly on the children. We originally researched low income school districts and how many children in each school were being held back from moving onto the third grade. Additionally, we found information on the negative consequences of being held back on a child. We then proposed solutions that would be implemented to try and solve these issues. However, after speaking with Jeff, we realized that it’s hard to create solutions for problems that 3rdgraders cannot do themselves. We then changed our focus to the principals of the elementary schools rather than the students themselves.

The second phase of our research was finding new and improved solutions to the problems facing principals. While volunteering at the animal shelter I(Juliette) learned about reading programs that include dogs from the shelters. We decided to do further research on these types of programs. We found an abundant amount of research on how reading aloud to dogs stimulates improved reading for children. 

The third phase of our research was discussing with our consultants on our new proposed solutions. We received amazing feedback, specifically on the Clifford the Big Re(a)d Dog solution. 


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.?

Everytime we worked on the propasal we were together on our computers side by side. We both drafted questions and concerns to ask our consultants prior to meeting with them. Additonally, after talking with Jeff we both provided amendments to our solutions and added a new one together. We came up with all of our solutions together but we divided who would post what on the caucus website. Below is specifically what we each wrote, but we did work together at all times. 

Juliette: Graphics for Media artifact and 1 article; Solution 1; Background and Research process (#3 &4); Consultation 1; Reasearch Process, Costs and Funding

Bailey: 3 articles for Media artifact; Solution 3 (Background and Research process (#1 &2); Consultation 2; Reaction or adivice from a Topic Coordinator, Preambulatory clauses

Both: Persona and POV statment, Solution 2; Consultation 3;  Author Contributions, Operative clauses,counter arguments. 


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....  "Less than half of Michigan’s third graders – 44.4% -- met last year’s reading proficiency standards."

WHEREAS....  "For many children, reading aloud feels like public speaking combined with the pressure of giving a good and accurate performance, all while being evaluated by a boss (the teacher) and several peers. When you consider it this way, it is no wonder that some children experience reading anxiety."

WHEREAS.... "7 in 10 teachers believe that parents are not involved enough in their child’s education. They cite a lack of parental involvement as the number one challenge to students reading more books." 

WHEREAS...repeating the third grade is very expensive for schools and requires hiring more teachers and making more classroom space

(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).


1. Clifford the Big Re(a)d Dog will be an after school program held once a week at the Humane Society of Huron Valley. The majority of the children apart of the program will be 2nd and 3rd graders falling behind in reading. The program will target students who are unable to read aloud due to vulnerabilities. Additionally, it will target kids who don't get read to or practice reading at home, therefore giving them more outside of school reading practice. At the shelter groups of up to 7 students will pair up with an shelter dog/puppy and take turns reading aloud. Student's ability to read will be improved due to the presense of the animal and we believe that the percentage of students falling behind will decrease. 

2. For many children, reading aloud feels like public speaking combined with the pressure of giving a good and accurate performance, all while being evaluated by a boss (the teacher) and several peers. When you consider it this way, it is no wonder that some children experience reading anxiety. A study done showed that second-grade students reading aloud to dogs in an afters-school program showed an impoved attitude toward academic reading. These findings highly support the benefit of animal-assisted reading programs in school. Another program we found called Therapy Dogs International, have also bosted about reading improvements after reading aloud to the dogs. For example, "Many of the children chosen for this program have difficulties reading and as a result have developed self-esteem issues. They are often self-conscious when reading aloud in front of other classmates. By sitting down next to a dog and reading to the dog, all threats of being judged are put aside. The child relaxes, pats the attentive dog, and focuses on the reading. Reading improves because the child is practicing the skill of reading, building self-esteem, and associating reading with something pleasant." Additionally, the principle of the school said reading scores went up after implementing the program. We are believe our program will do the exact same thing!

3.  Many teachers and those in the school system believe that the lack of reading proficiency in students has to do with not just what happens in the classroom, but also in other areas of their lives. It is recognized that parental involvement is a key feature in students ability to learn and read. However, many parents in low income areas may not have the amount of time to dedicate to reading to their children. The reading during school program will help make up for those children who are not getting the extra reading practice at home. By focusing in on what the children may need help with, teachers can target and spend time with each child individually and even assign them homework that pertains to their weaknesses. 

4. This program will require the hirng of just 2-3 teaching staff, opposed to many more if students had to repeat the third grade. 

(Add more "Resolved" clauses if necessary.)


What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1.  It is not the fault of the school, but instead the students and families who are not spending more time reading at home and improving on their skills. 

2.  If a measure, such as this new Law, is not put in place, students will have no motivation to increase their reading ability. This law, while may be deemed as harsh, will make kids try harder so that they do not have to repeat the third grade again. 

3. Reading infront of dogs once a week is not going to solve the meriad of problems that cause a large percentage of 3rd grade students in Michigan to be behind in reading.

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)?  



1. School bus rentals cost around $150 for 3 hours (to take the students to the shelter from the school)


2. Bus driver: 3 hours; minimum wage ($9.45 per hour)

3. Two teachers from the school: would be paid the same as what teachers get paid for leading extracuriircualr acitivites (ranges from $1500-$2000 added to their salary per year)


4. Reading materials 

5. Dogs and facility would be provided by the shelter (no cost)

Once a week for an entire school year. (20 weeks)

Transportation: Bus driver: $567  Bus: $3,000 

Staff: 2 staff members; $4,000

Materials: average $30 per 30 books; 300 books: $3,000

Total: Around $10,000-$13,000 per school 


The Michigan Department of Education is responsible for distributing over eleven billion dollars in state funding to public schools across the state. We want to target the top 5 public elementary schools in Michigan with the lowest reading levels for their 2nd and 3rd grade students. The total will be up to $65,000 to fund the program Clifford the Big Re(a)d dog for 5 different schools. We would like the Michigan legislature to make sure that the MDE sets aside enough money for the program. Which means they would be reallocating resources from other programs or the legislature wil

We expect a lot of backlash and objection to our proposal. Unfortunately, people will see through the high benefits of reading in front of animals for childrens reading abilities, and see the program as simply a mere school field trip. However, studies have proven that reading in front of pets can stimulate a child's ability to read better aloud and read better period. We believe many extracurricular programs will be competing against us for funding, such as sports, drama departments, and after-school clubs. We truly believe that implementing this program can make a difference in the current reading levels in Michigan. 


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



















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