A report by the University of Chicago, “Reading on Grade Level in Third Grade: How Is It Related to High School Performance and College Enrollment” provides important tips for parents and teachers:

“For children, a critical transition takes place during elementary school: until the end of third grade, most student are learning to read. Beginning in fourth grade, however, students begin reading to learn. Students who are not reading at grade level by third grade begin having difficulty comprehending the written material that is a central part of the educational process in the grades that follow. Meeting increase educational demands becomes more difficult for students who struggle to read.”

The study followed student performance data from third-grade through potential college enrollment. Some of the important findings from the study were:

  • The proportion of students who are below grade level is highest for male students, for African-American students, and for students who ever spent time in the foster care system.
  • Students who are above grade level for reading in grade 3 graduate and enroll in college at higher rates than students who are at or below grade level.
  • Third-grade reading level is a significant predictor of eighth-grade reading level.
  • Eighth-grade reading achievement and the ninth-grade school that a student attends account for many of the differences in performance among the below, at, and above level groups in ninth grade.
  • Eight-grade reading achievement and the ninth-grade school a student attends explain differences in graduation and college enrollment rates.

From the report, parents (and schools) should be concerned with the results—students who are below or at-grade level in third grade reading, influences their eighth-grade reading level, eighth-grade reading level influences their ninth-grade course performance, and students’ ninth-grade course performance will influence their high school graduation rates and college enrollment rates!

The results of this report are even more disturbing when considered within the context of the NAEP 2011 Reading results. Following are the percentages of students, by racial group, who are reading at or above the proficiency level:

4th-graders reading at or above the proficiency level:

  • 16 percent of Blacks
  • 19 percent of Hispanics
  • 44 percent of Whites
  • 49 percent of Asians

8th-graders reading at or above the proficiency level:

  • 15 percent of Blacks
  • 19 percent of Hispanics
  • 43 percent of Whites
  • 47 percent of Asians

Although there clearly are huge gaps between racial groups, no matter what racial group a child may belong to, over half of all children within his or her racial group are not proficient in reading by the fourth grade!

Download the NAEP 2011 Reading Report…

Download the University of Chicago Report…