Statistics show third-grade reading levels often not where they should be

By Katie Lannan

State House News Service

BOSTON — Since taking over as Massachusetts head of the education advocacy group Stand For Children, Ranjini Govender has started carrying around with her a sheet of statistics.

The numbers show what Govender, who has taught both preschool and high school, says is a “huge problem” in early literacy — 43 percent of Massachusetts third graders are not proficient in reading, according to Stand For Children’s numbers.

“When I started talking to people, they actually told me I was wrong,” Govender said. “My friends, I’d be like, ‘Did you guys know that 43 percent of all Massachusetts kids no matter where they live, they’re not proficient and they’re not reading where they should be in third grade?’ And people were like, ‘Forty-three percent, that’s huge. No, we’re Massachusetts, you might have that statistic wrong.'”

The most recent numbers from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, from spring 2015 exams, show 46 percent of third graders scored below the “meeting expectations” range on the PARCC assessment and 41 percent scored below the “proficient level” on MCAS tests. Education officials did not report statewide results for the tests in 2016, saying the way districts were divided between the test options created difficulty in compiling an aggregate score.

Advocates point to third grade reading levels as important indicators of future academic success, and Stand for Children is among the groups that have been calling for efforts to improve early literacy rates.

A 2012 law dealing with third grade reading proficiency established an early literacy expert panel to develop new policies and initiatives, and the state budget typically includes funding for literacy and early literacy grant programs.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s 2018 budget proposal consolidates several education grant programs, including the literacy funding, into a “targeted assistance and innovation” account, for which he…

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