Why reading? Why third grade? Why CLI?

Teacher in Class

“Children’s Literacy Initiative (CLI) is a non-profit that works with teachers to transform instruction so that children can become powerful readers, writers and thinkers.”

This is why we come to work every day – a core belief that the cornerstone of academic success lies in children’s ability to read. More specifically, CLI focuses our efforts around the most formative years in a child’s reading development – Pre-K to 3rd grade – in order to set students up to succeed within and beyond their academic career.

Within the current educational landscape you may wonder why the focus on reading? And furthermore, with standards for all grade levels, why just Pre-K – 3? The answer lies in research. We know that:

  1. There is a demonstrated need for national attention in this area,
  2. Reading (or not) by third grade has quantifiable and potentially costly effects on the individual and society, and
  3. CLI is effective at improving student outcomes around this target.

The Need:

According to the 2013 NAEP results, across all student subgroups, only 33.8% of students are reaching proficiency in reading at the beginning of fourth grade. Proficiency drops even further for African-Americans (18%) and Hispanics (20%). Clearly, as a nation, we are not adequately preparing students to be able to read by this critical benchmark.

The Trajectory:

In a report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation published in 2012 researchers note that “Third grade is an important pivot point in a child’s education, the time when students shift from learning to read and begin reading to learn.” Furthermore, the study states that reading by third grade is linked to high school completion rates and individual earning potential. This does not bode well for our nation, knowing that individuals that don’t complete high school go onto to cost taxpayers over $292,000 compared to an average high school graduate. Knowing that the recovery rate with students narrows as more time passes, we are best to invest early in our students, and invest in the skills we know to be directly related to later outcomes.

CLI’s Impact:

CLI has demonstrated that we are effective at moving the needle – getting more students reaching proficiency on state assessments in 3rd grade in our major partner districts.

  • In Chicago: With funds provided by Target, 3 CLI supported schools were able to increase the percentage of third graders reaching benchmark from 31.5% to 44.1% within two years.
  • In Newark: After three years of teacher participation in CLI’s i3 project, the percentage of third graders scoring at or above benchmark on the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJASK) increased from 31.5% to 38.8%.
  • In Philadelphia: After three years of teacher participation in CLI’s i3 project, the percentage of third graders in these schools scoring at benchmark (53.8%) on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) reading assessment is greater than the percent passing in a group of randomly assigned control schools (51.6%), as well as the overall district average (44.5%).
  • In Camden: After three years of teacher participation in CLI’s i3 project, the percentage of third graders in these schools scoring at or above benchmark on the NJASK reading assessment increased from 17.5% to 21.5%.

The biggest lever for improving our student’s educational outcomes is reading and writing by 3rd grade. It’s absolutely pivotal. To continue the improvements we are seeing in Newark, Philadelphia, Camden, and Chicago, we have to keep our students in front of effective teachers who have access to great materials, and professional development.

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