« Back to Indicators main page

Grade-level Reading by Third Grade

Kids who are reading proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to graduate high school on time.

Up to third grade, kids learn to read. After third grade, they read to learn. When it comes to literacy, third grade is where the rubber meets the road. A student who is reading at grade level by third grade is significantly more likely to succeed in later grades and graduate high school on time.

Unfortunately, one in four kids in our region is not reading proficiently by third grade. In areas of high poverty, the third grade reading SOL pass rate is as low as 61 percent, compared to the state average of 75.6 percent. If we are to build a better Richmond and Petersburg region, we must work together to improve these numbers.

Standardized tests measure student learning and are used as a predictor of future performance. Scores can be used to compare school systems, to determine resource allocation and to track individual school improvements over time. Third grade is a pivotal point for reading.

In grades four and beyond, children encounter many new challenges and are expected to have basic reading skills. Reading below grade level is the overwhelming reason students are assigned to special education, given long-term remedial services or are not promoted to the next grade.

Children missing more than 10% of the days in a school year (about 18 days or two absences per month) are much more likely to struggle to read at grade level by third grade. Chronic absenteeism creates and widens achievement gaps throughout elementary, middle and high school.

Students from low-income families are more likely to be chronically absent and the impact of absenteeism on their academic performance is twice as great as it is on their more affluent peers.