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literacy

head shot of Bill Gelineau
Bill Gelineau

Bill Gelineau, Michigan’s Libertarian nominee for governor, says Michigan's education system needs to start focusing on the individual needs of students.

Michigan is currently ranked 35 out of 50 states when it comes to 4th grade students’ reading skills and other performance metrics. Only 44% of Michigan’s third graders passed the English Language Arts portion of the M-STEP standardized test this year.

A long table surrounded by red chairs in a school classroom.
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The Michigan Department of Education on Wednesday released the results of its latest M-STEP assessment exams.

The big takeaways? Only 44-percent of students in grades 3-8 passed the literacy part of the exam. That's down from 2015, the first year the M-STEP was given.

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A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit demanding literacy rights for Detroit children.

Filed in 2016, the suit attempted to force the state of Michigan to improve the condition of city schools. A week ago, Detroit school officials released a report pegging the cost of repairing the city’s school facilities at half a billion dollars.  

But in an opinion issued Friday night, U.S. District Judge Stephen Murphy III dismissed the suit.

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New research from Michigan State University finds children develop language and literacy skills at a young age, in part due to their ability to “self-regulate.”

Self-regulation refers to a child’s ability to pay attention to tasks. 

Lori Skibbe is an associate professor in MSU’s Human Development and Family Studies department. She led a study of language and literacy skills among more than 300 children.

school buses
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State school superintendent Brian Whiston recently announced he's going on medical leave after being diagnosed with liver cancer.

Whiston believes he has put the programs in place to reverse the downward spiral of student scores, and he also has a plea aimed at state lawmakers.

Child reading
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Michigan has pumped nearly $80 million into boosting third-grade reading levels.

But the latest analysis from The Education Trust-Midwest shows despite all that money, early reading scores went down.

Third-graders in Michigan are the last in the nation for early literacy, and we're one of the few states actually losing ground in third-grade reading levels.

2017 Traverse City Children's Book Festival
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Michigan is one of the 15 states plus the District of Columbia to have a Third-Grade Reading Retention Law.

Starting in 2020, a third-grader who doesn't meet a certain reading proficiency level will have to repeat that grade.

In response, schools are preparing for a potential surge in English Language Learner (ELL) students who may be held back because of the law.

Libraries Without Borders-US

The Next Idea

Pretend it’s Saturday. 

You and the kids are running errands, including a several-hour stop at the laundromat. They are bored, you are bored.... What if you could use that washer time for something like education? What if your laundromat had the services of a library? 

Well, over the summer, this started happening in Detroit. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A literacy program is hoping to get more Genesee County children reading this summer. 

Ja’Nel Jamerson is the director of the Flint & Genesee Literacy Network.

He says it’s important for children everywhere to maintain their education levels during their summer vacation.  

But Jamerson says it’s especially important in Flint, where thousands of children were exposed to lead in their drinking water which can negatively affect their neurological development.

According to Nell Duke, developing literacy in children goes beyond just reading to them.
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It's well documented that literacy and reading are essential keys to success in life.

So what are some good ways parents can teach their children to make reading a central part of their lives?

It has been a crazy few days for Ryan Griffin, the guy behind the Read-to-a-Barber program we wrote about on the NPR Ed blog last week. He says the phone at The Fuller Cut in Ypsilanti, Mich., has been ringing nonstop since the story ran.

Open Books

A state panel will be named soon to look into improving Michigan’s dismal literacy rate. Governor Rick Snyder signed an executive order Wednesday creating the new PreK-12 Literacy Commission.

Michigan has one of the nation’s worst literacy rates. It’s ranked 40th when it comes to student literacy in the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

According to the International Dyslexia Association, as much as 20% of Americans have some symptoms of dyslexia.
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By the time they leave kindergarten, kids are supposed to have learned the building blocks of literacy. 

They should be able to connect letters to sounds and spell simple words like "cat" and "book."

But for an estimated one in five children with dyslexia, those basic skills aren't so easy to master.

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A legislative workgroup has released a report outlining ways to help Michigan students struggling with early literacy.

The Third Grade Reading Workgroup, which was created by Gov. Rick Snyder in March, recommends at least 90 minutes of diagnostic-driven, individualized reading instruction per day.

Open Books

It's finally summertime – time to relax on that lawn chair out in the sunshine and read a good book. 

Amazon.com has published its fourth annual list of the most well-read cities in America, and Ann Arbor is ranked sixth.

The ranking is determined by compiling sales data of all books, magazines, and newspapers,  published in print or online. 

At the top of the list is Alexandria, Virginia, followed by Miami, Florida and Knoxville, Tennessee. Ann Arbor is followed by other college towns, like Berkeley, California, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

The Michigan ACLU has filed what it calls a “groundbreaking” lawsuit against the Highland Park school district, and state education officials.

At issue: The state’s responsibility to make sure every child can read.

State law says school districts must provide any special assistance “reasonably necessary” to bring a child up to grade level in reading.

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The American Civil Liberties Union is suing on behalf of more than 950 Highland Park Public Schools students and their parents, claiming children aren't receiving an adequate reading education.

ACLU of Michigan Executive Director Kary Moss told reporters at a news conference Thursday the lawsuit is about the "right of children to read."

The suit against the state and others seeks class-action status.

Illiteracy and its effects on our society

Jun 13, 2012
Infographic on literacy.
Thea Card / Michigan Radio

It’s one of the most fundamental parts of our daily lives. Something you have probably taken for granted.

It's the ability to read.

In the United States, more than 40 percent of adults with very low literacy live in poverty.

One in five Americans read below the level needed to earn a living wage.

And more than 70 percent of the U.S. prison population cannot read above a fourth grade level.

In collaboration with WBEZ's Front & Center project, Michigan Radio peels back the layers of low-literacy.

In our hour-long show, we explore the impacts that illiteracy has on our communities and what literacy, in an every changing digital world, will really mean in our future.

Literacy is a big issue of concern for our educational system. Illiteracy can prevent people from filling out a job application or earning living wage. It also affects your civic participation.

Take a listen to our show using the "listen" button above, and share your thoughts with us!

Every week on What’s Working, we take a look at people and organizations that are changing lives in Michigan for the better.

Ken Lampar is the director of Macomb Literacy Partners, a program that helps adults learn to read and improve their literacy skills.

Nearly 70,000 adults in Macomb County are functionally illiterate, meaning they can’t perform tasks like filling out a job application or reading a perscription. Though literacy rates vary across the state, an estimated 8% of adults in Michigan lack basic reading skills.