PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island’s fourth graders registered the third-largest gains in reading proficiency nationally over the past decade, according to a report released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The report, titled “Early Reading Proficiency in the United States,” is based on data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which tracked fourth graders’ progress state by state, including the District of Columbia, for changes over the past decade.
Sixty-two percent of fourth graders in Rhode Island performed below proficiency levels in 2013, 9 percentage points less than the 71 percent recorded in 2003. Only Maryland and the District of Columbia performed better, with 13-percentage-point declines over the past decade, the report stated.
Foundation research shows that students who read well by the end of third grade are more likely to stay in school, graduate and find jobs after high school.
“This is good news for Rhode Island,” said Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director of Rhode Island Kids Count, in a phone interview. “We need to use that momentum to work even harder to close the unacceptably high achievement gap between higher income and lower income students as well as racial and ethnic minorities and English language learners.”
Rhode Island Kids Count is an independent nonprofit children’s policy group affiliated with the Casey Foundation’s national Kids Count project. The foundation works to improve the future of children in the United States by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity, and transform communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow.
Overall, all but six states made progress in improving reading proficiency rates from 2003 to 2013, the foundation reported. Despite that, two‐thirds of all children in the United States are still not reading proficiently by the time they reach fourth grade, the foundation said.
Despite progress on reading skills, the report also found that Rhode Island’s achievement gap between low‐ and higher‐income students is among the largest in the nation.