Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Poverty Puts Struggling Readers, Minorities at Greater Risk of Dropping Out, Study Finds

Poverty Puts Struggling Readers, Minorities at Greater Risk of Dropping Out, Study Finds

According to a longitudinal study of nearly four thousand students, one in six children who do not read proficiently by third grade — and one in four who are both poor and struggling readers — fail to graduate from high school.

Funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the report, Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation (15 pages, PDF), found that 16 percent of third-grade students who did not read at grade level either dropped out or failed to finish high school on time, compared with 4 percent of proficient readers. The report also found that of those who had lived in poverty for at least a year, 22 percent did not graduate, compared with 6 percent of those who had never been poor, while among third-grade students who were both poor and struggled as readers, the rate rose to 26 percent — and was highest among African-American and Latino/Hispanic students, at 31 percent and 33 percent, respectively. Indeed, the risk of failing to graduate was nearly twice as high for African-American and Latino/Hispanic children as for white children with similar reading skills and experiences of poverty.

Children from poor families are caught in a double jeopardy, the report argues, in that they are more likely to live in areas with low-performing schools, lack access to quality health care, and/or frequently miss school, all of which contribute to lower reading scores. Moreover, even when they are proficient readers, they are less likely than their more affluent peers to graduate from high school. The report recommends aligning high-quality early education programs with primary-grade curricula and standards, focusing more attention on children's health and developmental needs, and providing job training and other programs designed to help lift families out of poverty.

"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. "This research confirms the compelling need to address the underlying issues that keep children from reading."

“National Study Shows Students Who Don't Read Well in Third Grade Are More Likely to Drop Out or Fail to Finish High School.” Annie E. Casey Foundation Press Release 4/08/11.

Primary Subject: Education
Secondary Subject(s): Children and Youth, Human Services, Elementary and Secondary Education
Location(s): National

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