April 20, 2011

Poor Reading Skills Lead More Students to Dropout of School Than Poverty

Tags: Adult Literacy

It’s amazing how large of an impact struggling with reading has on students’ education. It’s just one skill, but it affects everything. A recent research study from the American Educational Research Association discovered some startling facts about how low reading skills affect graduation rates. The most surprising discovery of the research study is that low reading skills cause more students to drop out of school before receiving a diploma than poverty.

Here are some recent statistics on literacy and graduation rates:

  • There are several warning signs that can be found when a student is in 6th grade that lead to a 90% risk that a student won’t graduate on time: chronic absences, poor behavior, failing math or language arts (Robert Balfanz, Johns Hopkins University)
  • A student who can't read on grade level by 3rd grade is 4x’s less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently in 3rd grade. Add poverty to the mix, and a student is 13x’s less likely to graduate on time than his or her proficient, wealthier peer. (American Educational Research Association)
  • 16% of students overall do not receive a diploma by age 19, but students who struggle with reading in the first few years of elementary school comprise 88% of those who do not receive a diploma. (Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Longitudinal Study of Youth)
  • 89% of students in poverty who read at grade level by 3rd-grade graduate on time, and at the same rate as students who never experienced poverty but did struggle with reading early on.
  • Low reading skills are a stronger predictor that a student won’t receive a diploma than spending at least a year in poverty, which affected 70% of the students who didn't graduate.
  • More than 25% of poor, struggling readers did not graduate, while only 2% of good readers from wealthier backgrounds didn't graduate.
  • Gaps in graduation rates among Caucasian, Black and Hispanic students closed once poverty and reading proficiency were taken into account.
  • "If those in poverty are proficient in reading, they basically have the same rate of graduation of wealthier students: above 90 percent” - Donald J. Hernandez (American Educational Research Association)

Learn about an elementary reading curriculum and reading intervention program that help students build reading proficiency through a multisensory, explicit phonics approach to reading instruction.


Many of the statistics in this post came from this article from Education Week: Third Grade Reading Predicts Later High School Graduation

Download the research study from The Annie E. Casey Foundation here.

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