North Carolina Addresses Youth Illiteracy with Consequences

The Charlotte Observer reports that beginning this autumn, North Carolina will launch a new policy in the hopes of improving reading proficiency among youth.  Children in the third grade who fail to pass an end-of-the-year reading test will not be permitted to move on to fourth grade. Studies have shown that the inability to read on grade level by third grade hinders future academic achievement significantly. Recently researchers at the University of Chicago utilized administrative data to observe the educational outcomes of 26,000 individuals who were third graders in 1996-97. They found that third grade reading proficiency is  indicative of future academic performances, such as ninth grade course performance, graduation, and college attendance, even when demographic characteristics are taken into account. A study at Duke University also revealed that third graders who received prekindergarten programs achieved higher standardized reading and math scores than third graders who did not receive such educational initiatives. In response to this development, the Education Commission of the States says that repeating a grade is not a sufficient solution to solve youth illiteracy. Other factors, such as teacher training and development, reading coaches, reading summer schools, and parent engagement, are just as crucial in regards to improving reading proficiency of youth.

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