Education officials and advocates like to say that until third grade, students are learning to read, but starting in fourth grade they’re reading to learn. That means third grade is a critical year for students to master reading comprehension.
Now, Cincinnati schools is teaming up with 18 other school districts in Ohio and Kentucky to make sure 100 percent of their 3rd graders are proficient in reading by 2020.
According to the Ohio Department of Education, 70 percent of the 3rd graders in Cincinnati schools were proficient in reading in 2010-2011. Among low-income students, just 65.7 percent were proficient in reading. To reach their goal in the next eight years, Cincinnati schools will have to increase their 3rd grade reading rates by 5 percent every year.
United Way Cincinnati’s “Success by 6″ Initiative is one of the programs partners. Barbara Terry, Vice President of Community Impact at United Way Cincinnati, says the program will use three main methods:
- Make sure student attendance is up – after all students can’t learn if they’re not in school.
- Provide tutoring to beef up students’ reading abilities.
- Track student data to enhance efforts that are working and eliminate those that aren’t.
“Tutoring we know makes a huge impact, school attendance we know makes a huge impact,” says Terry. “So if we look at attendance and these kids have tutoring support can these kids catch up? The research says yes but we’re going to make this a reality on the ground.”
Terry says the program has a strong emphasis on students from low-income families since they’re more likely to have trouble with reading early on, and are less likely to stay in school than their economically better off counterparts.
One thing the program does not do is hold back third graders who are not reading at grade level. Unlike some other states, including Florida and Indiana, Ohio does not have a policy of holding back third graders who fail their reading exams.
The program was inspired largely by this study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation that asserts that students who can’t read well in 3rd grade are at increased risk of not graduating from high school.
The initiative is funded by several Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area non-profits. It launches this summer.
You can read the project overview here: