Grade-Level Reading

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. That is why it is imperative that we ensure every child is reading on grade level at this critical stage by implementing proven solutions and establishing early interventions.


  • Create research-backed state and school district reading standards that are proven to be effective for all children — including a well-developed plan for supporting English Learners.

  • Establish a way to identify struggling readers early on, as well as effective interventions and supports for struggling readers, including giving these students access to the most effective reading teachers.

  • Improve measures to ensure states, school districts, and schools are making progress in early literacy skills and 3rd-grade reading proficiency.

  • Provide ongoing professional development for teachers that is aligned with the curriculum and focuses on early literacy instruction, as well as 4th-grade reading comprehension.

  • Improve teacher preparation and graduate teachers who understand literacy.


  • Literacy proficiency by the end of third grade is perhaps the single most essential educational milestone.

  • Students who do not read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than proficient readers, and a student who is low-income and cannot read at grade level by the end of third grade is 13 times less likely to graduate from high school with their peers.

  • 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.

  • 40 percent of state, federal, and local prisoners have not completed high school.

  • Research shows that investing in literacy coaches with the expertise to support teachers to deliver literacy instruction that aligns with essential practices can be a highly effective in-school literacy support.

  • Research also shows that evidence-based, resource-intensive, classroom-based, and home-based summer reading programs can support students’ literacy development.

  • Research indicates that summer vacation may have detrimental effects on reading proficiency for many students, particularly students growing up in poverty. Various research studies show that students can lose one to three months of their school-year learning over the summer.


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, however, we are currently at only 44%.

As we mentioned in the previous post about questions to ask candidates this election cycle, literacy intervention is a key topic that is important to address.

We know this crisis isn’t going to go away if we just choose to ignore it. We need real action to turn things around.

Low reading rates present a major obstacle for the academic achievement of students and a significant problem for future economic success.

In the last couple of years, we’ve made some progress in this area. For example, we helped pass HB 2520, a bill to strengthen existing reading policies.

We also helped secure additional funding for students in poverty. They will receive $12 million in targeted early literacy funding–up from $8 million.

Building on our past work in Arizona, the next phase is Every Child Reads (ECR).

This is 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.

We work with districts to establish a team of parents within a designated school site who can support the programming and participate in a series of workshops and visibility activities and grow these activities within a school. 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.


The What Works Clearinghouse
The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) is an excellent resource that reviews research on programs, products, practices, and policies in education. When searching for evidence-based instruction and interventions, this is an excellent place to begin.

Social and Emotional Learning in Elementary English Language Arts Instruction
The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) compiled examples of SEL instruction in Elementary classrooms. This document has examples of lessons, activities, and teaching practices for elementary classrooms looking to incorporate SEL in their literacy instruction.

Just Read, Florida!
This is an example of a statewide early literacy initiative with promising evidence of its effectiveness. This website includes reading plans and parent, educator, and coaching resources.

Michigan Early Literacy Initiative is home to a series of resources created to guide leaders and educators on the Essential Instructional Practices for Early Literacy. An executive summary of the initiative and educator support network can be found here.

The Arizona Department of Education releases the statewide achievement test score for Arizona students—called the AzMERIT—every year. You can search for an individual school and/or select a school district to see the percentage of students who passed each section.

For example, according to the AzMERIT, only 44 percent of Arizona's third-graders are reading proficiently. While that number has gone up four percentage points between 2015 and 2018, there is still work to do.

Click here to see the full scores.

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