The Stakes Grow for Reading by Third Grade

Reading by 3rd GradeEducation is a critical catalyst for closing gaps in opportunity and achievement in an economic environment in which socioeconomic mobility is increasingly inelastic. That was the message of Education Trust President Kati Haycock, speaking during the opening address of the 2014 Education Trust National Conference, held Nov. 11-13 in Baltimore.

During her presentation, Haycock urged collaborative work to:

Get more low-income students and students of color to and through college. A child of parents in the bottom income bracket who lacks a college degree has a 45 percent chance of remaining in that bottom bracket; however the chance of that happening was cut by nearly a third, to 16 percent, if that child earned a college degree, a 2009 Pew Charitable Trust report found.

Census data from 2013 showed that only 11% of young adults in the lowest income quartile earned bachelor’s degrees, compared to 79% of young adults from the highest income quartile. Forty percent of white young adults earned bachelor’s degrees, while only 20 percent of their black peers and 16 percent of their Hispanic peers did.

Make sure all young people graduate from high school. If a child doesn’t graduate from high school with a diploma, they face higher rates of incarceration. This is true across racial/ethnicity boundaries. But for African American students, the stakes are particularly high. By age 34, a young black male who dropped out of high school has a 68% cumulative risk of imprisonment, sociologists Bruce Western and Becky Pettit estimated in their 2010 research report “Incarceration & Social Equality“.

Ensure all students have solid reading skills by the end of third grade. A low-income child who is a proficient reader in third grade has an 89% chance of graduating from high school, the Annie E. Casey foundation reports. However, a child who cannot read proficiently by third grade is four times as likely to leave high school without a diploma.

End chronic absenteeism. A chronically absent third-grader has only a 17 percent chance of becoming a proficient reader, according to a 2011 report from Applied Survey Research.

Build the mathematical competence of students – at every level. Math skills are more consistently related to a students’ post-secondary school success (enrolling in post-secondary program, earning a bachelor’s degree or level of earnings) than other competencies such as pro-social behavior, work habits, leadership roles, and sports-related competencies, according to a 2006 Mathmatica Policy Research report.

Mind the gap in both opportunity and achievement at every point on the achievement spectrum. For example, the National Center for Education Statistics found that although the percentage of white eighth grade students scoring advanced proficient in the National Assessment of Educational Progress math assessment jumped from 3% in 1990 to 11% in 2013, but the percentages for Latino eight graders scoring advance proficient in math notched up from 1% in 1990 to 3% in 2013. In 1990, 0% of African American eight graders scored advanced proficient on NAEP Math; by 2013, only 2% of African American eighth graders scored advanced proficient.

“We can be the change,” Haycock contends.

Leave a Reply