A longitudinal study of reading ability offers some disquieting information about the relationship between poor reading in elementary school and high school graduation. Education Week reported today that a study presented at the American Educational Research Association convention in New Orleans indicated a strong correlation between reading ability in grade 3 and subsequent high school graduation rates. “A student who can’t read on grade level by 3rd grade is four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently by that time.”
The educational research appears to demonstrate that grade three is a turning point with regard to reading skills. Most students acquire essential read skills in grades 1-3; they then use these skills to learn other subjects. Remediation becomes more difficult as a student progresses. Donald Hernandez, the author of the study, and a professor at Hunter College, part of CUNY, analyzed data for the student born in the decade from 1979-1989. “He found 16 percent overall did not have a diploma by age 19, but students who struggled with reading in early elementary school grew up to comprise 88 percent of those who did not receive a diploma.”
Most states begin testing in grade three. While some scores exist for students in grade two, not enough information is available to provide a detailed analysis.
The challenge for the academic establishment appears to be the development of an appropriate intervention that will enable more American students to become successful readers.