A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation sounds the alarm on the national failure to bring children to reading proficiency by the end of third grade. The authors say:
If current trends hold true, 6.6 million low-income children in the birth to age 8 group are at increased risk of failing to graduate from high school on time because they won’t be able to meet [a] proficient reading level by the end of third grade.
Reading proficiently by the end of third grade is a major benchmark; after that age, students are expected to read, understand and analyze increasingly complex material to learn. Failure to learn to read in the primary grades is highly correlated with failure to complete high school. In general, California’s 4th graders score just above the “basic” level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the Federal test that is the most reliable comparision across states. On the California Standards Test (CST), just 44 percent of the state’s 3rd graders scored advanced or proficient in English/Language Arts in 2008-09; among 4th graders that year, 61 percent scored advanced or proficient on the English/Language Arts test that year.
And San Francisco? I don’t have NAEP data for our district (if it exists at all, since the Federal test is not given in every district every year, and even then to a subset of students). But on the CST, 47 percent and 66 percent, respectively of 3rd and 4th graders scored advanced or proficient in 2008-09.
I keep thinking of Deputy Superintendent Carranza’s statement to the Board last month that — due to the district’s lack of data/assessment on student progress throughout the year — he could not give us any idea of how our third graders would do on the CST this year. That lack of data means that our annual CST results, to be reported in August, will be more like an autopsy than a diagnostic exam. I’m glad the Deputy Superintendent in charge of instruction in this district is focusing on the need for more and better data on student achievement — the lack of reading proficiency is an urgent problem that we’ve been talking about for far too long.