Literacy last? | WORLD
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

Literacy last?

EDUCATION | Mid-year academic data show young students still missing early reading goals

Getty Images

Literacy last?
You have {{ remainingArticles }} free {{ counterWords }} remaining. You've read all of your free articles.

Full access isn’t far.

We can’t release more of our sound journalism without a subscription, but we can make it easy for you to come aboard.

Get started for as low as $3.99 per month.

Current WORLD subscribers can log in to access content. Just go to "SIGN IN" at the top right.


Already a member? Sign in.

EXPERTS SAY young children need to gain reading proficiency by third grade in order to learn well in subsequent grades. But a recent report from learning assessment company Amplify says that as of midyear only about half of K-2 students in the United States are on track to achieve grade level in reading. About 3 in 10 students have fallen far behind in their reading skills.

Amplify helps schools administer the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) test. During the 2019-20 school year, 58 percent of first grade students were on track with their reading skills at midyear, according to DIBELS data. That share dropped to 44 percent during the 2020-21 school year, and has recovered only to 54 percent in 2023-24.

A 2011 Annie E. Casey Foundation study found that students who were not proficient in reading in third grade were four times as likely to drop out during high school or graduate late. More than a dozen states have passed laws that require schools to hold back or provide other interventions for third grade students who don’t meet certain reading test benchmarks.

Tennessee passed its own such law in 2021, and it took effect last year. Although as many as 60 percent of third graders qualified to be held back under the new rules, parents and schools utilized alternative options included in the law to help struggling students without requiring them to repeat a grade. Data later showed that only a little over 1 percent of Tennessee third graders were held back.

In March The New York Times reported on data showing that students who learned online for longer periods during pandemic-era school closures suffered greater academic declines. The U.S. Department of Education is encouraging schools to prioritize summer learning for struggling students this year.

Hmong Americans

Hmong Americans T’xer Zhon Kha

Hmong history lessons

Wisconsin lawmakers have passed a bill requiring schools to teach Hmong American and Asian American histories. Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, signed the measure on April 4 at an elementary school in Wausau, a city that, according to the Hmong American Center, has the highest per-capita population of Hmong in the country—12 percent.

Hmong Americans trace their lineage to China, where they experienced persecution before retreating in the 19th century to nearby Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Many fought for the United States in the Vietnam War but ultimately had to flee communism, immigrating to America starting in the 1970s.

Wisconsin’s Hmong population is surpassed only by California’s and Minnesota’s. Wisconsin schools already teach black, Native American, and Hispanic histories. —L.D.

Lauren Dunn

Lauren covers education for WORLD’s digital, print, and podcast platforms. She is a graduate of Thomas Edison State University and World Journalism Institute, and she lives in Wichita, Kan.


Please wait while we load the latest comments...