Millions of American children reach fourth grade without learning to read proficiently, and the shortfall is especially pronounced among low-income children, according to research by The Annie E. Casey Foundation. Of fourth-graders who took the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading test in 2009, 83 percent of children from low-income families failed to reach the “proficient” level in reading. Nationwide, 68 percent of all fourth-grade public school students scored below proficient levels.
Failure to read proficiently is linked to higher rates of school dropout, which suppresses individual earning potential as well as the nation’s competitiveness and general productivity. The report finds that reading proficiently by the end of third grade is a crucial marker in a child’s educational development. The authors call for a coherent system of early care and education that focuses on reading proficiency from birth through third grade, including policies that target absenteeism and disproportionate learning losses experienced by poor children over the summer.
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