Three Not-So-Basic Facts About Reading by 3rd Grade

Reading by 3rd GradeReading by 3rd Grade

The growing concern and investment in the Reading by 3rd grade movement is well founded in research on what happens when a student is a struggling reader. Since a great majority of the struggling readers are second language learners, some with learning disabilities, and many coming from communities of poverty, the vision of what is needed to serve the struggling reader begins to widen.

The basic facts of providing the supports for the struggling primary student is likened to the “three-legged stool” analogy: balance is found when all three legs are functioning together. The supports for PreK through 3rd grade students must be in the areas of:

1) Reading Gaps

2) Attendance Gaps

3) Summertime Slide

Without a concerted solution that addresses all three areas at once, investment in reading by 3rd grade will cease to have value once the students reach 7th grade.

The Reading Gap

There have been two varied responses to the investments in the reading by 3rd grade concept: retain and remediate or partial promotion with a heavy dose of remediation. The statistics are readily available.  A student not reading by 3rd grade is four times more likely to drop out of high school. However, the growing number of children who will be retained will cost American education approximately $80 Million annually.

One solution to the impending bubble of 3rd grade retained students is ongoing assessments for struggling readers and focused remediation from PreK-3rd grade. There is a need to have a direct alignment of PreK curriculum to that of the Primary grade. This would alleviate some of the negative effects on the 13% of our children that are struggling readers.

The Attendance Gap

To increase reading, we need to address the Attendance Gap. The Brookings Institute has identified that children of poverty begin Kindergarten with half of the necessary skills to learn on grade level. These students lack a rich exposure to language, intellectual curiosity, and exposure to the skills to overcome frustration and to persevere through difficulties. With several blockades to learning, research identifies that one in 10 students in grades K-1 miss nearly one month of school each year. Overall, absences of children in poverty are four times greater than that of middle class children.

To mitigate these problems, the Community School movement began to provide families with accessible  social and medical services. The percent of children with active asthma, dental problems, and undiagnosed vision problems is greater in poor communities. Immediate intervention to overcome the issues that stand in the way of attendance is crucial. There is a clear connection between learning time and attendance, proper nutrition, and health care, and so it is obvious that poverty is a factor in on-grade level reading that must be addressed.

The Summer Slide

Issues of poverty affect students to such an extent that by 5th grade, the positive effects of primary reading intervention are flattened. By 7th grade, they are negated. One cause of this is the lack of educational progress during the summer months and the actual loss of learning that had taken place the previous school year. What was a one-year gap in grade 3 can now become two and a half year gap by grade 5.

Proper access to enriching activities and books can mitigate the Summer Slide.  Access to books and regular reading will diminish the summer slide effect and actually improve student performance. The need to participate in readily available and organized summer activities is necessary for students to both read on grade level and maintain the school year achievement.

These are not problems for communities in poverty; these are national social problems. Dropout students have a negative effect  on everyone, not just due to social programs and criminal behavior but more so due to the lack of full contribution to the national economy.

There is vast research regarding educating children in poverty; so be on the lookout as we explore these issues further.

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