Successful Students

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Poverty Puts Struggling Readers in Double Jeopardy

When does a student transition from learning to read to reading to learn? Experts agree that third grade is the turning point. What’s troubling is that two-thirds of our country’s third graders aren’t reading on grade level. What’s worse is that those students are far more likely to drop out of school than skilled readers.

Students who don’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to leave high school without a diploma than proficient readers, according to a new study, Double Jeopardy: How Poverty & Third-Grade Reading Skills Influence High School Graduation.

Poverty compounds the problem: Students who have lived in poverty are three times more likely to drop out or fail to graduate on time than their more affluent peers – if they read poorly, too, the rate is six times greater than that for all proficient readers.

Black and Latino students who lived in poverty and aren’t reading at grade level by third grade are eight times more likely to drop out.

“We will never close the achievement gap, we will never solve our dropout crisis, we will never break the cycle of poverty that afflicts so many children if we don’t make sure that all our students learn to read,” said Ralph Smith, executive vice president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which commissioned the report.

School and community partnerships, like Everybody Wins, can help.

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