Early-Grade Reading: Paving the way to success

A child who can’t read at grade level by 3rd grade is four times less likely to graduate from high school. If this same child lives in poverty, the child is 13 times less likely to graduate. Both kindergarten readiness and 3rd grade reading are key ingredients to future academic success. If we want to improve high school and college graduation rates, develop a more robust and attractive workforce, and fundamentally improve the quality of life for thousands of people in our region, our collective work must include a focus this critical measure for student – and ultimately adult – success.

Partnership Profile

Lucie Collier, Cincinnati Public Schools K-3 Literacy Director, knows the path to academic and career success runs through children reading to learn by 3rd grade.

“This is it. If we can get it right at the kindergarten to third-grade level, then we can have a far better chance to get them to college and career,” she said.

Early intervention, supported by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and other partners, along with StrivePartnership coaches and data gathering, helped CPS third-graders leap 14 percent to 60 percent passing the state 3rd grade reading test in 2016-17 and hold steady in 2017-18. Gains continue to be made.

Collier credits early emphasis on reading, data collection and reading specialists for the improvements. Continuous improvement practices have fostered expansion of effective strategies.

“It’s made us very cognizant of the goals by knowing where we’re starting so we have a better trajectory. It’s far clearer than it used to be,” she said. “Teachers are being more reflective and no longer allowing bad habits to continue.”

However, education and community leaders agree the progress to date is not enough. The last 40 percent of students who aren’t passing the state reading test will be more difficult to help, Collier said, because most face some combination of challenges including poverty, mobility and learning disabilities. CPS has begun deploying reading specialists in 2nd Grade and working on social-emotional skills to address problems earlier in order to lift up more students.

“What else do we need to do for these kids and how early can we intervene? Those are questions we’re trying to answer,” she said.

3rd Grade Reading Data Definitions

The 3rd grade reading exam is administered to all Urban Core students to determine whether they are reading at or above the 3rd grade reading level as determined by each state. The data cannot be compared across states, as Ohio uses the AIR test* and Kentucky uses the KPREP.

Cincinnati, Ohio

Covington, Kentucky

Newport, Kentucky

*Test changed in 2015-16 in Ohio.

 All data as of December 17, 2018

2017-18 Outcomes data for Kentucky districts is not currently available and will be updated as the data are released on the Kentucky Department of Education data portal.