Childhood Literacy in Michigan

PRE-PROPOSAL

1. Media Artifact

Link to media artifact(s) giving background on the issue. Please list the title of the artifact(s) and then make the title(s) a link to the page in the MSC site where the artifact has been posted. You may include media artifacts made by other MSC members, if relevant, even if they are not authors of this proposal.

Infographic about Literacy in Michigan

2. Persona and POV statement

Persona:

Persona name: Carla
Age: 35
School/occupation: Nurse Practitioner
Location: Farmington Hills, MI
 
Quote: "I'm still learning to juggle all my obligations"
 
About:
  • Has 3 kids
  • Has to be at work by 8am so drives kids to school before
  • Spends weekends with family
  • Is involved at her kid’s school with PTO
Goals:
  • Tries to have time to help kids with homework and school
  • Wants to avoid sending kids to daycare for much longer
  • Spend time with family but have time for personal hobbies

 

POV Statement:

  • User:Carla, a busy and hard-working mother of three
  • Need: needs to find time to be involved in her children’s education
  • Insight: because she leads a hectic life and is often forced to put work or other obligations ahead of her children’s needs.
Note: I constructed this persona with a different end goal in mind. Originally, I wanted my proposal to focus a lot on the at home aspect of learningt to read, and how to provide additional resources to students. After consultations, I shifted my proposal to focus more on teachers and how to help them teach literacy effectively.

3. Potential Solutions:

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

SOLUTION 1: The first solution I considered is an amendment to the current "read by grade three" law. Currently, the law requires third graders that are behind in reading at the beginning of the school year to develop a personal reading plan, and if they are still behind at the end of the year, they must repeat the school year. This would cause a large budget issue for Michigan as it would cost around $40 million for those students that are held back to stay in school for another year. The amendment to the law would expand this to all grade levels before grade 3 as well. I think it is much easier to fix a reading problem before it has gotten really bad and a student is incredibly behind in third grade. I think this would limit the number of students that are held back as third graders. At the same time, in the first few years, it could possibly increase the number of students that are held back, but in the long term, it could be beneficial.

SOLUTION 2: The next solution I explored is changing the way that primary education is taught so that literacy is at the forefront. It is often thought that if one can read well, all other aspects of education will fall into place. More well-maintained resources should be available for teachers, as well as training in teaching literacy and assessing a student's literacy level. I think this would be beneficial, because in many school systems now, this is not widely focused on. The details of those resources and training will require further research.

SOLUTION 3: The last solution I explored addresses the link between poverty and literacy. Students that live in poverty are more likely to live in homes with less than 100 books, and 70% of them are below the reading level. In order to address this, more resources should be offered to these students. Outside of personal reading plans for third graders that don't meet the requirements, any students who don't meet the requirements should be given a reading plan. The solution should be customized for the student, and they should be required to work with school staff to bring up their reading level. One size fits all solutions are clearly not working for the state anymore. Obviously this is a concern with how much money would be required to fund this but is something to explore.

 

BACKGROUND AND RESEARCH PROCESS

Context

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

"Read by Grade Three" Law. This law requires students to be of proficient reading level by grade 3. If it is found that students are not at proficient levels at the beginning of third grade, they will have to enact a personal reading plan to help them get back on track (ie. no more than one year behind). If at the end of third grade, students are not at a proficient reading level, they will have to repeat the school year.

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 beginning this will make a difference for younger students who are just learning how to read. As time goes on, these students will grow up, so those impacted will be older students and eventually adults. Teachers will also be impacted because it will change the way they teach reading to students.

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

I always knew about the literacy problem in Michigan from the news. I continued to be interested in the issue from the Provocations section of this site and my own research.

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

Working with high school students from underserved communities for my service activity gave me lots of insight into what is wrong in our communities. The students I mentored weren't necessarily behind when it came to literacy, but I could see how they were behind in other ways.

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

childhood literacy in Michigan - see above

 

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: Professor Nell Duke, referred me to an article she wrote on the topic. In her article, Professor Duke explains that students being able to read a list of words and actually comprehending what they are reading with an ability to make inferences are two entirely differnt things. Addtionally, she shares that third grade isn't a magical year, and that while learning to read early on is important, it is vital that students continue to bolster their reading skills as time goes on. She also explains that teachers are not being held to high enough standards in terms of certification and that they aren't being given the proper resources to teach reading effectively. The best way to teaching reading is informed by the most recent research according to Professor Duke, and that isn't happening right now.

CONSULTATION 2: FATE Staff: The leadership within FATE believe it is important to offer students support and extra resources. They believe this is a wealth gap issue, and those who come from underserved backgrounds are disadvantaged when it comes to learning.

CONSULTATION 3: Gabriel DellaVecchia - to speak with on 3/20

 

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.

 

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 began my research and my proposal drafting with the belief that the best way to combat this was for students to have plans that are created at the beginning of their K-12 experience that is amended and used throughout. After consultation and research, I realized this isn't a problem that more initiative on the student's part or more planning could solve. I realized this is a problem of resources that are available to our teachers and how they teach reading to students. I also realized that while the situation at home might be the issue, it is much easier in a proposal to have jurisdiction over schools. Oftentimes, research that is current is not factored into the way reading is taught, and the best way to teach is the most informed way. I also in my research realized lots of money has been thrown at this issue with little to no progress.

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.?

 

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.... students who do not learn how to read properly will face ongoing issues that are proven to persist into adulthood, and can lead to unemployment

WHEREAS.... reading is fundamental for a student's learning later on as oftentimes in education, we read to learn

WHEREAS.... the illiteracy rate in the State of Michigan is 18% according to the FDIC

WHEREAS.... 54.9% of 3rd graders scored below proficient on the 2019 English Language Arts test according to the Michigan Department of Education

WHEREAS.... Michigan is in the bottom 10% for literacy in the United States

WHEREAS.... $80 million has already been spent on improving early reading in Michigan with no improvement

WHEREAS.... reading is still being taught based on a flawed theory called "three cueing" in which students are taught to use three cues to figure out what a word could be: graphic cues, synatic cues, and semantic cues. This theory has since been disproved as an effective way to teach reading.

WHEREAS.... teaching phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension is proven to be the most effective way to teach reading according to a report by the National Reading Panel, which has been worked into the Common Core Curriculum, yet Michigan is still behind in literacy.

WHEREAS.... it is stated in the MAPLE Plan for MI that a goal is to provide support for instructional skills, but there is not mention of actually training Michigan teachers in teaching literacy based on new research.

(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.  A commission should be set up to find a test group of teachers and students, preferably one of the school districts with the lowest literacy rates, and give a grant to the district for professional development for teachers to learn how to properly teach literacy to students.

  • This test group will be set up in the beginning to avoid funnelling more money into projects that do not help the issue
  • The test group will last for one year, and its success will be measured by the change in literacy rates for the school district

2. If the test group is effective in increasing the literacy rates, the commission should continue their search for other districts in Michigan that could benefit from the grant the most, and give out as many as they see fit. 

  • The number of grants that could be given out would pertain to the amount of money that can be received from the government

3. Any school district who has a literacy rate below 70% must have two-four literacy coach visits to each of their primary and elementary school teachers per month.

4. Professional Development Programs must be approved by the commission prior to the reciept of the grant

(Add more "Resolved" clauses if necessary.)

Counter-arguments:

What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1. How can you be sure the government will fund your proposal?

2. How can you be sure there are enough literacy coaches to visit these school districts that often?

3. Are you sure professional development will be helpful in raising literacy rates?

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)?  

The proposal requires a grant, so that is a direct expense which will be coming from taxpayer dollars. The additional cost needed for more literacy coaches to have these meetings will already be paid for as Gov. Whitmer has already increased funding for the literacy coaching program.

References:

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

https://www.bridgemi.com/guest-commentary/opinion-michigan-midst-literacy-crisis

https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/education/2019/08/29/michigan-third-graders-fail-reading/2086915001/
https://www.apmreports.org/story/2019/08/22/whats-wrong-how-schools-teach-reading

https://www.bridgemi.com/talent-education/michigan-investing-heavily-early-reading-so-far-its-not-working

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