by Dan Hampton
Most students in the United States lack the essential reading skills needed to succeed in an increasingly competitive society, according to a report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The report is an update to the data reported in two earlier Casey Foundation studies – Early Warning: Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters and Early Warning Confirmed. Data in those documents indicated that children who read at grade level by the end of 3rd grade are more likely to graduate high school and succeed as adults. The end of 3rd grade is about the time when children move from learning how to read to using reading to learn other subjects.
But according to the foundation’s most recent report – which gathered data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) – almost 80 percent of low-income students in the United States and 66 percent of all U.S. students do not read at grade level by 4th grade.
“We must do more to improve reading proficiency among all kids,” said Ralph Smith, senior vice president of the foundation and managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
“All states need to do whatever it takes to get all kids – especially in populations that are struggling – on track with this milestone,” he said.
Pennsylvania students rank 11th in the nation in reading proficiency, but more than half of the state’s 4th graders are still not reading at grade level.
There has been some progress in Pennsylvania. Test scores improved 10 percent from 2003 to 2013. In that time, the national average increased by 6 percent.
The study also found large disparities in reading proficiency levels among economic and racial groups.