The level of Alabama third-graders in 2022 scoring below grade level in reading has dropped by slim margins compared to the previous year, with the statewide failure in third-grade reading levels still above 20 percent of all Alabama third graders, according to a recent study.
The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, which released their latest measure of statewide reading last week, shows that 22 percent, or 11,725 students statewide, failed to meet third-grade reading standards in 2022, which is a slight improvement from 2021’s 23 percent of student failed third-grade reading standards.
The study also stresses that early identification of challenges in reading, alongside research-based interventions, will allow nearly all children to be taught to read.
“Learning to read by the end of third grade is considered fundamental to school success,” the study reads. “Children not reading proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely than proficient readers to leave high school without a diploma. After third grade, teachers expect students to read in order to learn. In later grades, students without adequate reading skills struggle and have limited opportunities to make up the deficit.”
With some variations per school system, children with significant economic disadvantages tended to present lower third-grade reading levels than students in more affluent and economically stable locations, according to the study. However, at a school-to-school level of examination, the study emphasizes that “economic disadvantage is by no means an insurmountable obstacle.”
“The correlation between poverty and performance is not as strong as in other educational data, like the ACT,” The study reads. “In these third-grade reading results, schools with the same level of economic disadvantage show very different levels of success. Many high-poverty schools far outscored expectations.”
In 2019, the Alabama state legislature passed the Alabama Literacy Act, a bill that requires all schools direct to assess the educational needs of third-grade students with failing reading levels and direct additional resources for select students to improve their reading levels. The law was amended during the previous legislative session to not be in effect until the 2023-2024 school year to compensate for systemwide learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the transition to virtual learning.