August brings lots of new experiences for Arizona students – a new school year, new teachers, new classrooms. For our state’s nearly 83,972 third graders, the 2013-14 school year includes a new statute, Move On When Reading, that requires third-grade students who score “Falls Far Below” on the AIMS reading test to be held back and have additional time to master their reading skills before they advance to fourth grade.
From birth through third grade, children must be learning to read. The first step begins when children listen to others talk to them, then learn to articulate words themselves and finally children learn to read written text. In fourth grade, reading becomes the critical means to success in other subjects such as science and math. A simple way to think about it is: Up to third grade, children learn to read; after third grade, they read to learn.
Data shows that students who aren’t able to read proficiently by the end of third grade struggle in later grades and are four times more likely to drop out. The outcomes are markedly worse for children living in poverty: these students are almost nine times more likely to drop out from high school if they don’t master reading by third grade.
Move On When Reading was enacted to ensure all Arizona students acquire that critical reading foundation.
Janet Garcia is Vice President for Community Impact with a focus on early childhood education and has worked with children, youth and families in Arizona for more than 30 years. She has robust experience and expertise and has assisted individuals and families facing poverty and abuse overcome these obstacles and become successful and productive community members.