Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters


Annie E. Casey Foundation

Poor reading skills at an early age are a warning sign of dropping out in high school, the foundation says, citing alarming statistics on reading levels of incoming fourth-graders.

Sixty-seven percent of incoming fourth-graders scored at below-proficient levels, and 33 percent received below basic scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test in 2009, according to the study, a special report of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2010 Kids Count project, which tracks data about American children.

The numbers become more staggering when broken down by socioeconomic status, as 83 percent of low-income students received below-proficient reading scores and 49 percent were measured at below basic.

Measuring fourth-grade reading levels is significant, the report says, because up until third grade most students are learning to read, but in fourth grade they begin reading to learn. That means poor readers in fourth grade will fall further behind their classmates.

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