Third grade marks a critical turning point in the life of student readers. It’s the time when students move from learning to readto reading to learn—or, more accurately, it’s the time when students are expectedto make this transition. The reality is quite different.
With data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) showing that two thirds of students nationwide are reading below the “proficient” level at “basic” or “below basic,” many states have begun to implement legislation or programs to ensure that all students can read proficiently by third grade. Consequently, educators are looking for ways to help their students accelerate the acquisition of the reading skills needed to meet academic expectations.
A recent report by the Annie E. Casey foundationreveals that students who are not reading proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to leaveschool without graduating. Breaking down research data for the first time along a variety of demographic lines, the report presents more grim statistics:
- About one third of students fail to achieve mastery of even basic reading skills by third grade
- Children from low-income families are disproportionately represented, with more than 83% reading below proficiency
- About a quarter of Black and Hispanic students who are not reading proficiently in third grade don’t graduate—nearly twice the rate of similar White students
The report’s discussion of policy and program strategies doesn’t provide easy answers, though it does identify integrating PreK-3rdgrade education as a research-validated approach to achieving and sustaining gains. According to a Grantmakers for Educationbriefing on this approach, when fully implemented it includes small class sizes; classroom teachers who are certified to work with PreK-3rdgrade learners; collaboration between school and family; consistency of learning environments and instructional approaches; alignment of curriculum, standards, and assessments across grades; and availability of PreK for all 3 and 4 year old children, followed by full-day kindergarten. While schools may begin to move in that direction, such change takes time.
Fortunately, there are proven tools available now that are highly effective in helping students achieve grade-level proficiency in reading: the Reading Assistant program, a personal reading coach that is proven to accelerate reading achievement, and the Fast ForWord program, an online intervention that is highly effective in helping struggling learners rapidly improve their reading skills. Join Dr. Martha S. Burns on July 25thfor a webinar about the newest science behind learning to read and find out how technology-based reading solutions can get students back on track.