Long-Term Connections between Third Grade Reading, Graduation, and Poverty are Found in Casey Foundation Study

by Jennifer Kobrin on April 14, 2011

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The simple but powerful idea that from third grade onward, students should be reading to learn, not learning to read, has guided the work of Foundations and our partners for more than a decade. We know that children who do not read on grade level by third grade face serious consequences (even though over 95% can, given proper supports), and that reading interventions must address factors outside of the classroom to be effective. Starting in 2008, we partnered with the Annie E. Casey Foundation on a grade level reading initiative called Making Connections, which has been highlighted in this blog.

Earlier this week, a study commissioned by the Casey Foundation found that high school dropout rates for students who were unable to read on grade level by third grade were four times higher than students who read proficiently by third grade. 88% of students who did not graduate from high school were either “below basic,” or “basic, not proficient” on reading tests in third grade. The effects increased significantly when poverty was taken into consideration. For more on the statistical calculations, I’ve included a link to the report below.

What’s unique about this study is its ability to track the students who were not proficient readers in third grade for such a long period of time. The study used national data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 3,975 children, whose reading scores and other data were collected from 1986 until as recently as 2008.  The children were identified based on a sample of mothers who were judged to be “nationally representative of all women” from 1957-1964. I hope our current efforts can help more kids to read on grade level by third grade—this an issue of fundamental human rights and we owe it to our next generation.

The study, Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation, can be accessed by clicking here.

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