Early reading skills
The need to focus attention on children’s early learning years is more important than ever, the report states, because a third of the nation’s fourth graders are reading below basic levels. Even worse, 49 percent of low-income children are below basic levels.
Without a basic level of competency by third grade, students are more likely to struggle academically, have behavioral and social problems, be retained in grade, and drop out of school.
Recent research indicates that children who attend both preschool and half-day kindergarten have significantly better reading skills than those who only attended one year of full-day kindergarten.
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) in Maryland set high goals for early childhood learning and reading achievement, giving student critical early learning foundations and linking skills gained in preschool with later grades.
Since implementing this initiative, 90 percent of MCPS kindergarteners enter first grade with key early literacy skills, and almost 88 percent of third graders read at proficient levels. The district’s racial and ethnic achievement gaps have dropped by double digits.
The brief highlights effective P-3 strategies and best practices in states and districts throughout the country, and it makes recommendations for how the federal government can help to support these efforts.
In particular, it suggests that federal policy makers:
- Encourage the development of P-3 teaching credentials.
- Support joint planning and professional development between early childhood providers and P-3 teachers.
- Reduce parallel sets of regulations and reporting requirements across federal funding streams.
- Allow blending of federal and state early childhood education and care funding to strengthen systems building efforts.
The report contends that federal leadership in these areas would help encourage states and local school districts to pursue P-3 strategies.
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