Every year, more than 1 million students drop out
of high school. That’s 6,000 students dropping
out every day. The numbers are even grimmer for
young people of color. As a result, fewer young
Americans are likely to earn a diploma than their
parents, a distinction not shared by any other
United Way has set out a challenge – to our 1,300
state and local United Ways and our national,
state and local partners – to help cut high school
dropout numbers in half by 2018. But high school
dropouts are years in the making, starting school
behind and rarely catching up.
Early grade literacy is one critical indicator.
Students who lag behind in reading by 4th grade
are more likely than their peers to drop out of
high school, more likely to be unemployed or
underemployed and to end up on welfare or in
prison. But today, only 1 in 3 fourth graders are
proficient in reading.
A SPOTLIGHT ON THIRD GRADE READING
As part of United Way’s new Campaign for the Common Good,
we want to invite individuals, institutions and organizations
across America to take action. We want to train the spotlight
on early grade literacy, where a quiet crisis is brewing. Children
need to read to learn, to understand the world, and to
succeed in school, work and life. But that’s not happening.
One in three 4th graders score below “basic” in reading
on national assessments.Some 67% failed to score at or
above proficient. Below “basic” means a child can’t read
well enough to understand a simple story, or can barely read
Certain groups of students are more likely to face reading
troubles than others.
50% of poor students scored below “basic,” compared with
21% of their better-off peers.
In 4th grade, 14% of black students and 17% of Hispanic
students scored “proficient,” compared with 42% of white
students and 45% of Asian students.
The implications of this underperformance are hard to ignore.
We’re widening the achievement gap, and undercutting the
future for these children.
From kindergarten through 3rd grade, successful readers
learn the skills that enable them to understand and find
meaning in written text.Children are learning to read in the
early elementary years; by 4th grade they should be reading
to learn. Unfortunately, students who aren’t strong readers
Early Grade Literacy:
Our Case for Action
by 4th grade are at risk of educational failure. They’re more
likely to fail courses, disengage and eventually drop out
For children to become readers, they must master the five
components of reading:
Phonemic awareness: the ability to notice, think about,
and work with the individual sounds in spoken words.
Phonics: the relationships between letters and the individual
sounds of spoken language.
Fluency: the ability to read a text accurately and quickly.
Vocabulary: the words individuals must know to communicate
Text Comprehension: the ability to understand, remember,
and communicate about texts.
None of those things happen without access to books, supportive
families and communities, and focused, caring and trained adults.