Rhode Island is joining a national effort to increase reading proficiency in elementary school. New state and national test scores show major achievement gaps.
According to the new PARCC standardized test, and another known as the Nation’s Report card, low-income fourth graders are about half as likely to be reading at grade level as their peers.
The new initiative, spearheaded by the education advocacy non-profit RI Kids Count and the United Way of Rhode Island, hopes to close that gap, by the third grade.
Kids Count director Elizabeth Burke Bryant said that year is an important milestone in a child’s education.
“Up until third grade, children are learning to read,” said Bryant. “After third grade, it’s expected that children are reading to learn; that they have the kind of literacy skills to be able to grasp increasingly complex material from fourth grade on up.”
Bryant said there are a variety of approaches to closing that gap, from access to books, to more early childhood education.
“There’s also a focus on things like, are we catching developmental delays early enough,” said Bryant. “Before children hit kindergarten, through comprehensive developmental screening and getting kids the intervention they need to catch up with their peers. Are we doing enough of that before kindergarten?”
Bryant said reading ability is one of the best predictors for high school graduation. Students who are not proficient readers are about four-times more likely to drop out.
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