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Double Jeopardy

By John Knight, Early Literacy Coordinator on 04/10/2012 @ 01:41 PM

What is the most critical milestone in a child's education? Many people will point to third grade reading levels. In fact, The Annie E. Casey Foundation has shown that children who are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade are four times less likely to finish high school on time than proficient readers. Thus a movement is growing: Spreading the word about the importance of high-quality education, love and nurturing in the years leading up to the essential benchmark of third grade reading (but certainly still continuing thereafter).

Furthermore, we have learned there are other factors also contributing to one-third of Florida's third graders reading below basic levels (which account for over three-fifths of those who drop out of high school or fail to graduate on time). The Annie E. Casey Foundation conducted a study that includes the impact of poverty on third grade reading levels titled, Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation. It quickly becomes clear that poverty only magnifies the issue: Students who have lived in poverty are three times more likely to drop out or fail to graduate on time than their more affluent peers. Additionally, if they are poor readers, they are six times more likely to drop out.

Living in a high-poverty neighborhood also decreases the odds of a child graduating high school. According to the study, "Among children who experience all three risk factors—not reading proficiently at the end of third grade, having lived in a high-poverty neighborhood, and experiencing family poverty—the proportion failing to graduate is 35 percent. This demonstrates the compounding effect of the three risk factors."

These findings highlight the deep-rooted issues that require the collaboration of schools, families and governmental policies and an increased focus on high-quality, early educational programs -- with special focus on closing the racial and ethnic disparities in reading levels, household poverty, and neighborhood impact.

John Knight
Early Literacy Coordinator

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