Wednesday, January 29, 2014

PA 4th-Graders Improve Reading Skills, But Poverty Clouds Progress

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Fourth-graders in Pennsylvania appear to be showing progress in reading skills, but not all students are benefiting. 

A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation reveals that the percentage of fourth-grade students reading below proficiency levels dropped from 67 percent in 2003 to 60 percent last year. 

Michael Race, director of communications at Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, says the new numbers reinforce the benefits of books.

"We know from research and evidence that children who are proficient readers by the end of third grade, are more likely to graduate from high school, and to be economically successful when they reach adulthood," he says. "So this shows that we have a lot of work to do."

Race maintains the progress being made is tempered by economics. 

The report shows that 77 percent of Pennsylvania's low-income fourth-graders are below proficiency in reading. 

That compares with 45 percent of fourth-grade students coming from higher-income households who don't measure up.

Race adds collaboration is a primary component to steering the numbers to more acceptable levels.

"Key to conquering this reading issue is for policymakers and parents and taxpayers to work together to come up with a coherent system of early learning that aligns and integrates and coordinates what we expect children to learn in their earliest years," he stresses.

Race says a program called Pre-K for PA is one initiative under way that could improve early reading in the state.

"Early learning and particularly high-quality Pre-K can help lay the foundation for a student's success once they enter kindergarten and go through the first, second, third grades," he stresses.

Tom Joseph

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