Literacy, or the ability to read, is a fundamental skill that students must possess in order to be successful throughout school and after graduation.
Perhaps no milestone is more critical in a student’s academic career than their ability to read by the end of third grade. Mastery of other academic subjects, including math, science and social studies, requires a strong foundation in basic literacy skills. Building on this foundation, students will continue to hone and develop more complex reading skills as they progress through school. For these reasons, students who cannot read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely than proficient students to drop out of school before earning a diploma.
A significant reading deficiency, or a SRD, is a term used to describe a student who does not meet the minimum skill levels for reading competency in the areas of phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary development, or reading fluency. This includes oral skills and reading comprehension established for the student’s grade level.
In short, they are falling behind in the most basic foundational skills of reading and need assistance to ensure they are on track to be reading successfully by the end of third grade. In Colorado, students with a SRD receive specific assistance in the form of an intensive plan developed by their teacher in partnership with their parents.
Students learn to read by the end of third grade so that they can “read to learn” in 4th grade and beyond. Success in school and life is dependent on a solid foundation of reading skills that will continue to be honed as students progress though school. Research has shown that students who cannot read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely than proficient students to drop out of school before earning a diploma. Students who fall behind in reading between kindergarten and third grade (the early grades) are unlikely to catch up to their peers, and the gap between struggling and proficient readers only tends to grow over time.
No matter where your child is in their literacy development, there are lots of ways you can help them with reading. Parent involvement in their child’s learning has been shown to be one of the most important factors in their academic success. Even something as simple as reading aloud to your student for 20 minutes each day can dramatically help their reading and academic abilities.
39% of Colorado’s third graders are proficient in reading.
Since its implementation, statistics have shown that the READ Act is garnering results for students. In 2015, 13.8% of K-3 students in Colorado were identified as having a Significant Reading Deficiency (SRD), down from 14.4% of students in 2014 and 16.5% of students in 2013.
Of the 13,145 first graders who had a SRD in 2013, only 4,923 were still identified as having a SRD by third grade—this represents a 54% reduction among that cohort of students!
In 2015, 8.7% of Caucasian students were identified with a SRD, compared to 20.6% of Black students and 21.2% of Latino students. Additionally, 21.3% of students on free-or-reduced lunch had a SRD.
In 2012 the Colorado General Assembly passed and Governor John Hickenlooper signed into law the Colorado Reading to Ensure Academic Development Act, or READ Act. The READ Act is a multi-pronged, intensive agenda for intervening when a child struggles to learn how to read. Early literacy development for all students in kindergarten through third grade is a primary focus, but the law also concentrates on students who are most at-risk of not achieving third grade reading proficiency. The READ Act stresses literacy development and literacy assessment, and it requires the creation of individual READ plans for students identified with a Significant Reading Deficiency (SRD). Importantly, the READ Act also offers financial support to school districts to help fund programs for students who have a SRD.
As we have said earlier, achieving reading competency by the end of third grade is a critical milestone for every student and plays a pivotal role in a student’s ability to succeed academically in later grades. There also is general consensus among researchers that if a student enters fourth grade without achieving reading proficiency, he or she is far more likely to fall behind in all subject areas.
What’s more, early-elementary proficiency rates can be predictors of lifelong performance, and low literacy rates in society can have wide-ranging consequences for employment, job creation, and overall economic performance of a community as well as for crime and law enforcement.
Statewide, the rate of reading proficiency among third-graders has hovered near 39 percent, which leaves plenty of room for improvement.