Fourth- and eighth-graders in this country have made little to no progress in reading or math since 2015, according to recently published results from the 2017 National Assessment of Education Progress.
Even more alarming is that the gap between high- and low-performing students is widening. Compared to 2015, reading scores for fourth-graders performing at the 10th and 25th percentiles declined overall. That means that low performing students are losing ground rather than making critical educational improvements.
Research from Hunter College and The City University of New York tells us that 1 in 6 children who are not reading proficiently by third grade fail to graduate from high school on time, a rate four times greater than that for proficient readers.
As Executive Director of Readers 2 Leaders, an early literacy nonprofit located in Dallas, I am disheartened that student progress in reading is stagnating. Yet it is important for education and nonprofit leaders to look for positive trends in data in order to replicate success and help more students reach critical early reading milestones.
Literacy Bright Spots
Education leaders in Washington D.C. recently discussed the NAEP results and student performance trends. Several bright spots in the data were highlighted. In Florida, gains in eighth-grade reading are the result of new rigorous standards and a focus on students performing at the 25th percentile, according to Florida Department of Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.
California also focused resources toward specific target groups with positive results. California saw a 4-point increase in eighth-grade reading. Glen Price, chief deputy superintendent for the California Department of Education highlighted the state’s Local Control Funding Formula. Through the formula, English language learners and students in foster care benefitted from increases in spending.
Price also pointed out that California’s investing in out-of-school time can directly impact student growth. California spends $500 million on after-school programs.
Readers 2 Leaders specializes in integrating best practices in early reading instruction into all programs. Students in Readers 2 Leaders’ after-school programs gain an average of one-and-a-half years of skills for every year they participate in the program. Additionally, students in Readers 2 Leaders’ summer camp programs gained three months of skills (traditionally, students lose two to three months of skills over the summer months).
When educators employ best practices and research-based methods, students can make measurable gains.
Yet, thinking on a grander scale to address the problem is crucial. Increasing funding toward education is key, but seeking out-of-the-box solutions like integrating literacy tutoring into out-of-school time and summer programs should also be considered as part of a larger, more comprehensive approach.
Identifying positive trends and using these trends to inform continued investment in early literacy is vital. America’s children deserve the investment in their futures.
Support Early Literacy:
- Connect with programs like Readers 2 Leaders that provide data-driven results based in research and best practices. Research programs across the country that are making an impact.
- Organizations like The Campaign for Grade Level Reading publish “bright spots” that highlight successful program models.
- Learn more about early literacy at Giving Compass.
Norma Nelson is the Executive Director of Readers 2 Leaders, a nonprofit organization focused on childhood literacy in Dallas, Texas. She is a Public Voices Fellow through The OpEd Project.
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