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Initiatives From Preschool to Third Grade A POLICYMAKER’S GUIDE


The period between preschool and third grade is a tipping point in a
child’s journey toward lifelong learning — from “learning to read”
to “reading to learn.”1 If children do not have proficient reading skills by
third grade, their ability to progress through school and meet grade-level
expectations diminishes significantly. While all areas of children’s learning
and development are critical for school success, the predictive power of
a child’s third-grade reading proficiency on high school graduation and
dropout rates is startling. Consider:

  • Children who are not reading proficiently by third grade are four times
    less likely to graduate from high school on time.
  • If they live in poverty, they are 13 times less likely to graduate on time.
  • In 2016, they comprised more than half of all students (63 percent) who
    did not graduate on time.

Pair that with the knowledge that about 30 percent of all fourth-graders and
50 percent of African-American and Hispanic fourth-graders nationwide are
reading below grade-level. Over half are likely to drop out or will not graduate
on time.

If policymakers are to make a significant impact on the readiness of our
nation’s future workforce, interventions and strategies to address gaps in
learning must begin much earlier than third grade. Research demonstrates
that disparities in children’s learning are evident as early as nine months
of age. Policymakers have the authority to make equity-focused policy
decisions that not only ensure all students receive equal access to the same
educational pathways, but also provide them with the unique supports they
need to succeed.

However, in most states, the programs that support children on their path to
academic success from birth to third grade are disconnected — especially
for low-income children who are most at-risk for school failure — in part,
because the funding streams and governance that oversee these programs
are themselves fragmented. The lack of coordination between education
programs that serve children until age 5 and the K-12 education system is
becoming apparent to education policymakers. States will need to employ
strong leadership to set a vision for programs, transitions, governance and
funding coordination to address gaps in early learning — setting children on a
path toward third-grade success and ultimately, high school graduation.


Source: Education Commission of the States (2018). Initiatives From Preschool to Third Grade; A Policymakers Guide.