Knowledge is not only power: It’s freedom.

Legislation | 07/22/2019

Rebecca Gau
Arizona Executive Director

Research shows that a child who cannot read by the start of the 4th grade is four times more likely to drop out of high school and will likely remain behind his or her peers in subsequent school years. The ability to read is critical to a child’s success in school, life-long earning potential, and their ability to contribute to the nation’s economy.

Outside of the academic consequences, struggling readers are also far more likely to end up in the criminal justice system; at least a third of youth in juvenile correction facilities have a specific learning disability. This is evident in the 40 percent of state, federal, and local prisoners who have not completed high school. Knowledge is not only power. It’s freedom.

It is imperative that we ensure every child is reading on grade level by the end of third grade by implementing proven solutions and establishing early interventions. As time passes, it becomes even more challenging to remedy literacy issues.

What are the reading scores in AZ?

Before mentioning the scores themselves, we have to acknowledge that a lot of work has been done to try to turn things around. According to one study, the increase is due to “state-supported initiatives and legislation, such as a focus on struggling readers.”

Now, based on the latest AzMERIT reading test, 52% of 3rd graders failed the reading portion of the test. That means that only 48% passed the portion.

While it’s not okay that half of the kids in our state are failing reading at the end of third grade — there is both good news and bad news here.

First, the good news: Arizona's state test scores are improving, but only by a few percentage points. Our ultimate goal is for 100% of students to be reading on grade level. However, public education groups and supporters have created a Progress Meter to break down that ultimate goal into attainable milestones. The goal right now is for 72% of our 3rd graders to read proficiently by 2030.

And now, unfortunately, the bad news: At this rate, we aren’t going to meet that goal. But that doesn’t mean we should give up. Although these statistics are still bleak in Arizona, we have a lot of the tools necessary for reform in place.

We need to continue to invest in early literacy and make sure that the English Language Learner reforms are in place and are actually helping students.

At Stand Arizona, we are also working with local districts through our Every Child Reads (ECR) program. This a research-based family engagement program that empowers parents with the skills and knowledge they need to support their child's learning and prepare them to succeed after graduation.

ECR is designed to help parents and guardians understand the importance of and develop a plan to increase–both personally and actively across their school–enrollment in quality kindergarten programs and reading at home.

Although we are seeing small improvements, there is still more work to be done — and we need your help. Together, we can make a difference. We can work to make sure that our students have the knowledge that will lead to power and freedom in their lives.

 

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