Report: Double Jeopardy: How third-grade reading skills and povery influence high school graduation


Research: students


Hernandez, D.J.,




The Annie E. Casey Foundation


Educators and researchers have long recognized the importance of mastering reading by the
end of third grade. Students who fail to reach this critical milestone often falter in the later
grades and drop out before earning a high school diploma. Now, researchers have confirmed
this link in the first national study to calculate high school graduation rates for children at
different reading skill levels and with different poverty rates. Results of a longitudinal study
of nearly 4,000 students find that those who do not read proficiently by third grade are four
times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers. For the worst
readers, those who could not master even the basic skills by third grade, the rate is nearly
six times greater. While these struggling readers account for about a third of the students,
they represent more than three-fifths of those who eventually drop out or fail to graduate on
time. What’s more, the study shows that poverty has a powerful influence on graduation
rates. The combined effect of reading poorly and living in poverty puts these children in
double jeopardy.


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