Urban communities across the nation are concerned about the state of education in our country, particularly as it relates to high school graduation rates. The problems that lead to low graduation rates however, begin for students at the earliest ages.
According to a special report: "Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters" issued by the Annie E. Casey Foundation last year, third grade is a pivot point in children's academic success. If they have not mastered reading by the end of third grade, their future success is severely jeopardized.
Third grade is when children are expected to make the transition from "learning to read" to "reading to learn."
Studies show that children who are successful by third grade are less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to go on to higher education.
Third grade is when children are expected to make the transition from "learning to read" to "reading to learn." Studies show that children who are successful by third grade are less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to go on to higher education. But, seventy-four percent of children who are not reading on grade level at the end of third grade will never catch up to graduate with their class. High school failure costs taxpayers between $320 and $350 billion a year in lost wages, taxable income, healthcare, welfare and incarceration costs, among others.
Decades of research proves that when young children are surrounded by literature-rich environments are spoken to and read to frequently, have the skills needed to start school and are appropriately supported in the early grades, they can be successful in school and reach their highest potential, regardless of social or economic challenges.
In the City of Buffalo, we have a particularly acute adult illiteracy problem with 30 percent of adults - 65,000 people - reading at or below a 5th grade level. It is time to address the issue by supporting our youngest children so they can succeed and break the inter-generational cycle of low literacy that leads to unrelenting poverty. The point to intervene to avoid this problem is in the early grades. In Buffalo we see a decline in reading performance from Kindergarten through third grade. Nationally labeled as first grade fade-out, this phenomenon is acutely prevalent in Buffalo with 72 percent of Kindergarteners reading above benchmark and dropping to approximately 40 percent by the third grade.
Without the ability to read, write and communicate, our children cannot succeed in school, adults cannot find and keep jobs that will sustain their families, and our city cannot compete effectively in the global economy. However, with a concerted community effort we all can change things for our youngest students in Buffalo.
The Raising of America Series is a five-part documentary series that explores the question: Why are so many children in America faring so poorly? What are the consequences for the nation's future? How might we, as a nation, do better? The series investigates these questions through different lenses: What does science tell us about the enduring importance of early life experiences on the brain and body? What is it like to be a parent today? And what policies and structures help or hinder the raising of healthy, happy and compassionate children? The Signature Hour covers all three of these issues. The four subsequent episodes each dive in for a closer look.