Third Grade Reading 1

Students from lower income families are testing proficient at rates much lower than students from higher income families.

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Students of color at all income levels are testing proficient at rates similar to lower income white students.

Douglas and Sarpy County schools use statewide assessment tests (NeSA) to measure for reading, writing, and math proficiency over the last five years. Overall, test scores have risen for all groups since 2010, but students who receive a free or reduced lunch (FRL) test proficient at rates much lower than their higher income peers, indicating that there is an achievement gap based on socioeconomic status. It’s even more concerning that students of color in all income categories test proficient at rates similar to lower income White students.

Pottawattamie schools use the Iowa Assessment Tests in math and reading to annually test for proficiency. Since 2011, the disparity between races has increased. Students who receive a free or reduced lunch have consistently tested proficient around 10% lower than all students.

It’s also important to consider these findings over time to understand how our schools are trending. While there are disparities based on socioeconomic status and race/ethnicity, overall, proficiency rates are improving in local schools.  

Douglas & Sarpy County Third Grade Reading 
Pottawattamie County Third Grade Reading

Why Does It Matter?

Students who can't read proficiently by 3rd grade may struggle in other subjects such as math and science.

The ability to successfully read directly influences all other areas of a child’s education and learning capabilities. Until 3rd grade, students are typically learning to read, while after 3rd grade, students are reading to learn. Therefore, a student who is not able to read proficiently by 3rd grade may also struggle in other subjects like math and science. This domino effect can have serious consequences for students. One study found that nearly 90% of students who had dropped out of high school struggled to read in 3rd grade.

Teaching in the classroom is not the only way children learn to read, however many parents or caregivers lack the time and ability to work on reading, spelling, or phonics at home due to their own challenges. Children who worry about their next meal or their personal safety don’t have the support or resources to practice or enhance their reading outside of school. These outside factors severely impact a child’s ability to successfully read.

How Do We Compare?

Overall, students in Iowa and Nebraska test near or below the national average.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) conducts testing across the country to provide a comparison of students. In reading testing, they do not asses at the 3rd grade level, but do assess at the 4th grade level.

Nationally, 46% of White students, 18% of Black students and 21% of Hispanic students are testing proficient in reading in 4th grade. At the state level, Nebraska students are testing at or close to the national averages for White and Black students while Hispanic students are testing lower. In Iowa, students are testing below the national averages for all three race/ethnicities.

Data Source: Nebraska Department of Education, Iowa Department of Education, National Assessment for Educational Progress


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