I recently engaged in a small debate with some friends of mine on Facebook. The subject is 3rd grade readers and what should be done with those kids who are struggling to read at that age.
Minnesota just passed, or is getting ready to pass, a new law that requires kids who are not reading at grade level by 3rd grade be held back:
The bill would direct school districts and charter schools to develop plans to monitor students’ literacy skills from kindergarten through grade three and inform parents at least twice a year of their child’s reading progress. Struggling students would get extra help such as tutoring, summer school or extended time programs.
It would also limit “social promotion,” or advancing students automatically to the next grade. With certain exceptions, students would only be promoted to the fourth grade if they demonstrate reading proficiency by the end of third grade — but if not, they’d repeat third grade and receive intensive, specialized intervention.
As is my nature [i’m kind’ofa a smartass] and the fact that I used to teach [okay-okay, 1 year] combined with the fact hat I have a rising 3rd grader got me interested.
So I asked what we should do with 3rd graders who can’t read? In my mind, this is a larger question and should be answered at every grade or measurement period. That is, if you haven’t mastered the 8th grade, you shouldn’t move on to 9th. Same with Jr. Social Studies or Algebra I. But whatever, 3rd grade is the topic so we’ll stick with that.
It turns out that there is a study that shows reading ability at 3rd grade is a strong predictor of graduation.
One in six children who are not reading proficiently in third grade do not graduate from high school on time, a rate four times greater than that for proficient readers.
This is powerful stuff.
Now, to be sure, correlation doesn’t imply causation. It could very well be that the factor that contributes to poor 3rd grade reading is the same factor that contributes to dropping out. In fact, the study finds poverty is a massive indicatr as well:
Overall, 22 percent of children who have lived in poverty do not graduate from high school, compared to 6 percent of those who have never been poor. This 4 rises to 32 percent for students spending more than half of their childhood in poverty.
Does poverty cause poor reading? Are parents who are poor unable or unwilling to do the needful in order to get their kids to read? Intelligence in inherited. Is it possible that folks with lower IQs raise children with lower IQs?
Fascinating questions. However, schools and administrations, along with states and other governments, are taking this study to heart. By getting kids at their grade level achievement in reading by the 3rd grade, they feel they are increasing the chances these kids stay in school and graduate.