The ability to read by third grade is among the most important academic benchmarks of a student’s educational journey. This important school year marks the transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn,” and research has confirmed that students who have not been supported in mastering these skills going into fourth grade are at significantly greater risk of dropping out before completing high school.
Unfortunately, this risk is compounded by economic insecurity. A child experiencing poverty who cannot read proficiently by the end of third grade is must overcome even greater odds to achieve a high school diploma. And in Texas, children from households experiencing poverty comprise our fastest growing demographic, making improving reading outcomes among our youngest students an even more urgent imperative.
But a closer look at Texas’ achievement data reveals some good news. Several campuses across the state prove demographics need not be destiny. Our newly updated Data Dashboard includes a tool to help you identify the schools in your area that are exceeding expectations when it comes to third grade reading outcomes.
Above, you’ll see a scatter plot that includes every public school campus in the state of Texas, arranged by two variables: the percentage of students at the campus meeting third grade reading standards along the vertical axis, and the percentage of students experiencing poverty at each campus along the horizontal axis. The general trend line that emerges is disheartening, if unsurprising, given the research: the greater the concentration of poverty, the harder it becomes to ensure all students achieve proficiency.
But this “hope chart” doesn’t just show the general trend. All of the dots above the line represent Texas schools that are exceeding expectations and achieving third grade reading proficiency at rates higher than the campus demographics would suggest. By hovering your cursor over a given point on the plot, you can explore the demographics at each of these high-achieving campuses. Some of these outliers have the potential to shift our conventional wisdom. Jesus A. Kawas Elementary School in Laredo ISD kept 91% of their third graders on track, in spite of the fact that nearly every student qualified for free and reduced lunch.
The dashboard also features a series of filters enabling you to take a deeper look at the schools in your neighborhood. For example, if you wanted more information about third grade reading proficiency in the Houston Independent School District, you can:
- Select the “School District” drop down bar
- Deselect “All”
- Search and select “Houston ISD”
By doing so, you can see how schools like Forester Elementary and Field Elementary are making huge strides in their third grade reading outcomes.
For many, the newly released scores of the Nation’s Report Card are a sobering wake-up call to increase our investment in literacy instruction. Thankfully, the recently passed Texas House Bill 3 promises to do just that, with a new allotment for early education and a requirement to train educators in the science of reading.
This “hope chart” demonstrates that there are several schools and districts across the state that can and should serve as a model for the implementation of best practices to reach our most vulnerable students as we seize this historic opportunity to capitalize on new funding.