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Report: More than Half of WA Fourth-Graders Struggle with Reading

PHOTO: A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation says only one in four Washington children from lower-income families can read at grade level by the time they reach the fourth grade. Photo credit: USAG-Humphreys
PHOTO: A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation says only one in four Washington children from lower-income families can read at grade level by the time they reach the fourth grade. Photo credit: USAG-Humphreys
January 29, 2014

SEATTLE - Reading is the cornerstone of a good education and future success, but in Washington and across the nation, more young children than not are struggling with it.

According to a new Annie E. Casey Foundation report, six in 10 Washington students can't read at grade level when they reach the fourth grade. That's a few points better than the national average, and the state has shown improvement in the past 10 years.

It's partly the result of work by places such as the Community Center for Education Results, where communications manager Kristin Johnson-Waggoner said they ask families to approach reading as a healthy habit.

"We say, 'Read 20 minutes a day.' Just as long as it gets ingrained into the culture of the family, and maybe even into the community," she said. "And we want to be a community of readers and just reinforce that from every angle, so we can help all of our students become successful readers."

The Community Center works in seven of the state's highest-need school districts in South King County.

Only about half the students from higher-income families in Washington read proficiently by the time they reach fourth grade, the report said, compared with just one in four children from lower-income households.

The report warned of a shortage of skilled workers as early as the end of this decade. Johnson-Waggoner said the Community Center has plans to change that prediction through its "Roadmap Project" - at least in its corner of the state.

"We have a year 2020 goal to double the number of kids who are on track to receive a career credential or college degree," she said. "And we're also working to close the achievement gaps that we see in our region."

The Casey Foundation report says Washington, like other states, shows significant reading achievement gaps not only between low- and high-income students but between students of color and white students.

The Casey Foundation report, "Early Reading Proficiency in the United States," is online at aecf.org. Roadmap Project information is at roadmapproject.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA