We all know that a student’s experience early on in school can have major implications for their future academic career. Numerous longitudinal studies have demonstrated how warning signs for future academic issues manifest themselves earlier and earlier in a child’s schooling.

Simply put, without a dramatic reversal of the status quo, we are cementing educational failure and poverty into the next generation.

A 2013 study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation added another significant finding to this area: a student who can’t read on grade level by the time they reach the third grade is 4X less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who reads proficiently by that time. When poverty is added into the mix, the student is 13X less likely to graduate on time compared to her reading-proficient, wealthier classmate.

Every student who does not complete highs school costs our society an estimated $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes, and productivity.  High school dropouts also are more likely than those who graduate to be arrested or have a child while still a teenager both of which incur additional financial and social costs.

“Third grade is kind of a pivot point,” says Donald J. Hernandez, a sociology professor at Hunter College at the City University of New York. “We teach reading for the first three grades and then after that children are not so much learning to read but using their reading skills to learn other topics. In that sense if you haven’t succeeded by 3rd grade it’s more difficult to [remediate] than it would have been if you started before then.” Here are some of the biggest findings and takeaways from the report:

  • Among low-income 4th graders the shortfall in reading skills is especially pronounced: 83% of children from low-income families failed to reach the “proficient” level.
  • Moms matter: Kindergartners whose mothers have more education are more likely to score in the highest quartile in reading, mathematics, and general knowledge than all other children and to have better motor skills than children whose mothers have less formal education.
  • Children with the lowest reading scores account for 33% of all students, yet they account for 63% of all children who do not graduate from high school.
  • Only 2% of those who finish high school, work full time, and marry before having children end up in poverty compared to 75% for those who have done none of these things.

To read the full report, please click here. Let us know what you think about this important issue, and be sure to donate to the Philadelphia Children’s Foundation or apply to volunteer with us so that we can help provide our students with the resources they need to attain the bright future they deserve.