On kidsdata.org, reading proficiency is measured by the percentage of 3rd graders in public schools who score proficient or higher on the English Language Arts California Standards Test (CST). These data are available by English fluency, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.
In order to score proficient on the CST, a student must demonstrate a competent
and adequate understanding of the knowledge and skills measured by this
assessment, at this grade, in this content area; scoring advanced
requires a comprehensive and complex understanding.
Third grade reading scores are highly correlated with later academic success; some research indicates that reading proficiency at the end of third grade is predictive of whether or not a student will graduate from high school (1, 2). Generally, third grade marks the transition from "learning to read" to "reading to learn" (1). Students with limited reading abilities have a harder time keeping up across multiple subjects (including math, science, and other languages), and those who fall behind in the early grades often stay behind (1). Thus, early intervention is critical for children who are struggling with reading.
State and national data consistently show an achievement gap in reading proficiency between some racial/ethnic groups (see California data), though researchers agree the gap largely is due to socioeconomic factors, such as parental education and family income (3). Some progress has been made in closing the gap, but disparities remain.
For more information on reading proficiency see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.
Sources for this narrative:
- Musen, L. (2010). Early reading proficiency. New York, NY: Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University. Retrieved from: http://www.annenberginstitute.org/pdf/LeadingIndicator_Reading.pdf
- Child Trends. (2012). Reading proficiency. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org/?q=node/158
- Lara-Cinisomo, S., et al. (2004). A matter of class: Educational achievement reflects family background more than ethnicity or immigration. Rand Review, 28(3). Retrieved from: http://www.rand.org/publications/randreview/issues/fall2004/class.html
Despite broad agreement on the need to boost reading proficiency among California students and to bridge the racial/ethnic achievement gap, there is sharp disagreement on policy reforms to achieve these goals. Research has documented the key domains for reading improvement (e.g. understanding the sounds words make, fluency in reading, vocabulary, etc.), but there is no single set of evidence-based approaches for making improvements in those domains. Quality teaching, however, is one key point of consensus. Teacher quality has been shown to have a significant impact on student achievement (1, 2, 3). As California and other states implement new “Common Core” state standards in English-language arts and math over the next several years, policymakers also will face challenges in authorizing new assessments, curricula, and teacher evaluation systems that align with the standards (4).
According to research and subject experts, policy options that could improve reading proficiency include:
- Improving teacher quality at every grade level (1, 2, 3); recognizing that acquiring reading proficiency by third grade is a key indicator of later school achievement (5)
- Investing in quality preschool for California children, to promote kindergarten readiness and lay the foundation for later achievement (6)
- Choosing carefully before investing in reading interventions, given the developing research base and mixed results of many programs (7); key elements in successful literacy initiatives include ongoing student assessments as well as teacher professional development (8)
- Articulating state, district, and school-level middle school policies emphasizing improving academic outcomes for all students, including tying student outcomes to teacher evaluations; aligning middle school curricula, instructional practices and assessments with state standards; and prioritizing student academic performance when selecting superintendents and principals (9)
- Analyzing district and school-level data on student achievement and progress by racial/ethnic group, especially for children of color, so that data can inform policy (10)
- Encouraging and investing in comprehensive, evidence-based policies to
promote family involvement in school, as it is strongly related to
children’s academic achievement (11). Family involvement should be
integrated as part of the school instructional strategy, and family
engagement policies should be evaluated for effectiveness.
For more policy ideas on reading proficiency in California, see the Research & Links section on kidsdata.org or visit the Center on the Future of Teaching and Learning, the Institute of Education Sciences What Works Clearinghouse, Education Trust-West, EdSource, and Preschool California. Also see Policy Implications on kidsdata.org under Math Proficiency, High School Dropouts and Family Income & Poverty.
Sources for this narrative:
- Darling-Hammond, L. (2000). Teacher quality and student achievement: A review of state policy evidence. Education Policy Analysis Archives. Retrieved from: http://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/392
- Rivkin, S. G., et al. (2005). Teachers, schools and academic achievement. Econometrica, 73(2), 417-458. Retrieved from: http://www.econ.ucsb.edu/~jon/Econ230C/HanushekRivkin.pdf
- Goe, L. (2007). The link between teacher quality and student outcomes: A research synthesis. National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality. Retrieved from: http://www.tqsource.org/link.php
California Department of Education. (n.d.). Common core state standards resources. Retrieved from: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cc/
- Musen, L. (2010). Early reading proficiency. Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University. Retrieved from: http://www.annenberginstitute.org/pdf/LeadingIndicator_Reading.pdf
- Barnett, W. S., et al. (2007). Effects of five state prekindergarten programs on early learning. National Institute for Early Education Research. Retrieved from: http://nieer.org/pdf/MultiState1007.pdf
U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. (2011). Beginning reading. Retrieved from: http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/reports/Topicarea.aspx?tid=01
Alliance for Excellent Education, for the Carnegie Corporation of New York. (2006). Reading next: A vision for action and research in middle and high school literacy. Retrieved from: http://www.all4ed.org/files/ReadingNext.pdf
EdSource. (2010). Gaining ground in the middle grades: Why some schools do better. Retrieved from: http://www.edsource.org/middle-grades-study.html
EdSource. (2008). Raising African American student achievement: California goals, local outcomes. Retrieved from: http://www.edsource.org/pub_AAachievement5-08_report.html
- Caspe, M., et al. (2007). Family involvement in elementary school children’s education. Harvard Family Research Project. Retrieved from: http://www.hfrp.org/family-involvement/publications-resources/family-involvement-in-elementary-school-children-s-education
The percentage of 3rd graders scoring proficient or higher in English Language Arts (reading) on the California Standards Test increased between 2004 and 2011, statewide, and in the most populous counties. In 2011, 46% of California 3rd graders were proficient or advanced in English Language Arts, up from 30% in 2004. Reading proficiency in 3rd grade varies widely at the county level, ranging from 27% to 69% in 2011. Data also show that reading proficiency varies by English fluency, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. For example, 2011 California data show that 33% of economically disadvantaged 3rd graders were proficient in reading, compared to 67% among higher income students. Although disparities remain, the percentage of reading-proficient students increased between 2004 and 2011 for all subgroups with available data, including economically disadvantaged students, English Learners, and students in all racial/ethnic groups.