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Kids Count spotlights 3rd grade reading

December 6, 2010

Studies suggest that students who read well by the end of third grade are less likely to fall behind in school and less likely to become high school dropouts. Yet just 36 percent of Rhode Island 3rd graders were proficient in reading on national tests in 2009.

That rate is slightly higher than the national average but places Rhode Island fifth out of six New England States.

Kids Count Rhode Island Director Elizabeth Burke Bryant says better preschool and child care options in the Ocean State would make a big difference for families on the lower end of the income scale.

“There’s a vast divide between children who have access to the best preschools and high quality child care and scores of other students who haven’t had that access,” says Bryant. “And so the starting gate really isn’t the starting gate in Kindergarten. There’s a huge preparation gap that we have to close.”

Ralph Smith from the Annie E. Casey Foundation spoke at a roundtable discussion on hosted by Kids Count today. He says low reading proficiency rates in third grade worry educators around the country because it is much more difficult for students to catch up if they don’t read well by that age.

“The information in 4th grade is a lot more complex, requiring students to work independently and not to be read to as much,” says Smith. “If they are unable to read on their own, they fall even farther behind.”

Kids Count Rhode Island is recommending a multi-pronged approach to the problem including improving early detection systems in elementary schools and better literacy training for teachers. The group is also urging an expansion of full-day Kindergarten programs. Currently just 16 out of 35 districts in Rhode Island offer full-day Kindergartens.

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