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Report: Poverty Impacts Ohio 4th Graders' Reading Skills

PHOTO: New research finds poverty is playing a factor in the reading proficiency of Ohio’s fourth graders. Photo credit: morguefile.com
PHOTO: New research finds poverty is playing a factor in the reading proficiency of Ohio’s fourth graders. Photo credit: morguefile.com
January 29, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Poverty is playing a factor in the reading proficiency of Ohio's fourth-graders, new research shows.

According to the report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the number of Ohio children not reading at grade level has improved slightly over the past 10 years, to 63 percent by 2013. But Dawn Wallace-Pascoe, Kids Count project manager for the Children's Defense Fund of Ohio, said there's also a 32-percent gap between low-income children and higher-income children.

"We have some huge disparities with lower-income children in particular," she said, "so we especially need to give attention to the lower-income children and improve the rates for the state overall."

The findings came on the heels of preliminary results from an Ohio test that determines whether students will advance under the "Third Grade Guarantee." Those results showed further evidence of disparities in reading proficiency by race, with 67 percent of black and 57 percent of Hispanic students below grade level on the statewide test, compared with 37 percent of white students.

Elizabeth Burke Bryant, senior consultant at the Casey Foundation's Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, said reading well by the end of third grade is an important benchmark in predicting a student's academic success.

"Up until third grade, they're learning to read," she said. "After third grade, it's expected that they know how to read in order to absorb the material."

Wallace-Pascoe said Ohio is making strides to better focus on supports to ensure that all children can meet this reading milestone.

"We have increased funding in this year's state budget for early-childhood education; and also in 2013 expanded the 'Step Up to Quality' early-childhood ratings program," she said. "We just need to continue working to improve reading skills of our youngest readers."

The Casey report recommended giving more attention to low-performing schools and finding ways for communities to ensure that students come to school ready to learn, improve their attendance and add or expand summer learning programs.

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

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH