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Report Outlines Reading Challenges for MD Fourth-Graders

PHOTO: A new reading report card has been issued for Maryland's fourth-graders. It takes a look at reading proficiency and income levels. Photo courtesy ed.gov
PHOTO: A new reading report card has been issued for Maryland's fourth-graders. It takes a look at reading proficiency and income levels. Photo courtesy ed.gov
January 28, 2014

BALTIMORE - There's something to "read between the lines" when it comes to the reading proficiency of Maryland's fourth graders. Overall, children are more likely to be on track compared with ten years ago, but the story changes for low-income pupils, according to the report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation released today.

According to David Beard, education policy director at Advocates for Children and Youth, 76 percent of low-income children are behind in reading, compared with just 42 percent of higher-income pupils.

"So when you have that many children being that far behind, the problems are going to compound as they move into the upper grades," he said.

The Casey Foundation has documented the way in which the grade-level reading benchmark is associated with a child's success through high school, and is even connected to earnings as adults. The gap in proficiency is even wider for children of color in poor families. Solutions include strong investments in early-childhood education and targeted programs to help children who have fallen behind in the early years of school.

Beard said school absences often are a problem in the early years of a child's education, and there are a lot of reasons children miss school.

"Some parents (are) struggling to get kids to school, others have transportation problems, and then some parents of all incomes (are) not necessarily realizing how important those early years are," he said.

The Casey Foundation report is based on reading scores from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) in 2003 and 2013. Overall, 68 percent of fourth-graders in Maryland were not reading proficiently in 2003. In 2013, the number dropped to 55 percent.

The report, "Early Reading Proficiency in the United States," is at AECF.org.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD