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Report: Preschool literacy gains fade by 3rd grade

By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 11, 2013 03:08 PM

Children who enter District schools after having a District-affiliated preschool experience have better literacy skills when they start school and through 2nd grade, but much of that advantage "fades" by 3rd grade, according to the latest report from the Accountability Review Council (ARC).

The ARC, a watchdog group created during the state's takeover of the city schools, did a statistical analysis of students in 2011-12 who had attended one of four different preschool programs in 2007-08.

Preschool "seemed to have narrowed the reading gap for their students when compared with their peers [who didn't attend] in the year or two immediately following the pre-K services," the report concludes. "By the time students took the PSSA in third grade, the benefits of [preschool] in reading proficiency tended to fade." 

Based on data from reading assessments through 3rd grade, ARC found that students with disabilities and Latino, male, and low-income students who had attended preschool performed better for the first few years in school than similar students who had not. The group observed "a fading out of reading readiness as [preschool] students move from kindergarten to elementary grades."

It recommends a close look at the preparation and support for K-2 teachers in  literacy and the development of strategies for helping struggling readers "so that students who enter kindergarten and first grade with strong reading skills do not lose ground. ... K-2 teachers need to be fully engaged in student assessment of reading readiness." 

ARC describes this as "an urgent need," because "the attainment of reading proficiency by the end of the third grade is one of the most important indicators of future academic success for all children."

Other highlights from the report:

  • ARC, which is composed of researchers and educators from around the country, "is deeply concerned about the ability of the District to sustain basic education quality for all students given the current fiscal crisis."
  • ARC said that it often has trouble getting data from charter schools, which impedes its work. "The lack of data transparency among charter schools is especially troubling from an accountability standpoint. ... Charters were created and publicly funded in large part because of the role they were intended to play in education reform. Parents and students were to have more choice and charters were given the flexibility to innovate and share successful teaching and learning practices with other public schools. Without complete access to data from charter schools, parents are not able to make fully-informed choices about where their children might benefit most." 
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Comments (13)

Submitted by Beth (not verified) on December 11, 2013 7:41 pm
2 thoughts... 1) I have been worried about K-2 teachers inflating DRA levels, particularly since there are no more literacy coaches to help asses kids or train teachers to properly administer tests. 2) There is a huge disconnect between carrying out best practices in literacy education in preschool, which is play based and exploratory and early elementary grades, which is ends up as heavy on direct instruction.
Submitted by sdop_educator on December 11, 2013 9:17 pm
The conclusions in this article are of the typical nature and really underscore the problem with the so-called education reform movement. We get some "surface" data and the immediate conclusion as to the solution is to train the teachers better. The article mentioned the demographics of the students but then apparently gave that no regard in terms of the conclusion. Why is it so hard to understand that if both Child A and Child B are engaged in literacy activities at school but then, while Child A has further engagement at home in the evening, Child B does not even come close to a book until the next day in class, the deficiencies are bound to become more and more pronounced. So yes, from pre K to 3rd grade, you can expect an appreciably wider gap.
Submitted by Gloria Endres (not verified) on December 12, 2013 6:44 am
If you read the report, there is no doubt that any type of early childhood training improves the chances of reading and math success for children in all groups. Common sense tells us that any kind of literacy readiness is better than none. Comparing children in charter and SDP schools without full disclosure of pre-school experience is worthless. And most worthless of all is comparing results on the flawed state tests which are NOT correlated to grade level to normal DRA testing. More significant is the continuing rise in graduation rates among all groups since Head Start was made available. The graduation rate in 2012 for 4 years was 64%. It increases if you count those who graduate in 6 years to about 75%. ECE should not be dismissed because of any "fading" element found on the PSSA. What counts is the longitudinal effect on graduation and general success in school and life.
Submitted by Headstart teacher (not verified) on December 12, 2013 9:38 am
Couldn't have said it better myself!
Submitted by Gloria Endres (not verified) on December 12, 2013 9:07 am
Thank you. All through the report they describe gains in reading and math for all groups that have ECE, but rely only on the PSSA as "evidence" that there is some kind of "fading"? These are 8 year olds sitting for their first major standardized test. And all their progress is supposed to be measured by this one assessment? Meaningless nonsense.
Submitted by Gloria Endres (not verified) on December 12, 2013 8:41 am
Again, if you read the report, the lowest achievers (on the PSSA) are students from the Latino community. Are we surprised when children who come to school, even pre-school, with English as a second language have a harder time scoring on a multiple choice test in that language? There is no doubt in the minds of experienced educators that school readiness begins years before first grade. ECE is vital to success in school and it is disingenuous to use the word "fades" to describe achievement based on the results of a standardized test.
Submitted by Christa (not verified) on December 12, 2013 8:54 am
This article is lacking information. It gives a small overview of their thoughts/findings but does not tell the whole story. From what is in the article, we can gather that pre-school is EXTREMELY important but we have to find a way to continue that achievement beyond 2nd grade. Our students are in desperate need of learning opportunities after school, on Saturdays and during the summer. These kinds of programs cost money though and no one is willing to pay for it. I didn't care for Ackerman and many of her policies, but our students were making gains and growing academically while she was superintendent because she instituted all of those programs. It helped greatly. We need to find a way to convince politicians that these programs and FULL FAIR FUNDING matters GREATLY!
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on December 12, 2013 9:06 am
I just quickly read the actual report. There is nothing in that report which supports the headline as stated above. The study uses PSSA scores which are wholly inadequate by which to make any generalization as said in the headline. The PSSA scores have very little validity and reliability and have basically zero credibility. The NAEP tests, which are also used for analysis in the study, are not given until 4th grade. The measures are not correlational at all. Sorry folks but the study has very little validity.
Submitted by Gloria Endres (not verified) on December 12, 2013 9:41 am
Hi, Rich I think we agree entirely. But this is not the first time I have read something about the effects of ECE "fading" by third grade. It would seem to the more cynical among us that such reports are waaaay too convenient when it comes to cutting ECE funding. If HS makes no difference, the saying goes, why bother to fund it at all? Let's pay attention to what lawmakers and candidates say about this.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on December 12, 2013 10:33 am
First, we should clarify and define what we actually mean by "fading" and then define how we are going to "measure it." With what valid and reliable instrument are we using? Second, there are probably hundreds of studies of that issue which were done in a very scientific way. I have not recently read the "Annual Summary of Investigations Related to Reading" put out by the International Reading Association which give yearly summaries of such studies. But what the study does legitimately show is that we are in desperate need of credible research on that issue and all of the issues related to student growth in reading ability. Of that I am sure.
Submitted by Gloria Endres (not verified) on December 12, 2013 2:13 pm
Yes, exactly, thank you. Conclusions must be based on verifiable and authentic data. And data must come from reliable assessment tools. The PSSA is not a reliable measure of anything but the ability to take that particular test. The cut-off of basic, proficient and advanced are arbitrary and capricious and do not relate to grade levels at all.
Submitted by linda (not verified) on December 12, 2013 4:13 pm
for all of you who read and responded, if I could, I would award each of you an Ed.D. degree for questioning the article, data and the author... So here it is: with the power invested in me, I award you all the EdD degree...go forth and keep questioning Thank you Linda K.
Submitted by "Higher" Ed? (not verified) on December 13, 2013 10:13 am
Congrats, new PhDs! Linda K's Ed.D. degree, awarded via the comments section of the Notebook, is just about as legitimate and valuable as Temple's.

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