Building Our Future’s newest network, Early Grade Reading, focuses specifically on third grade reading proficiency in Kenosha County. To those not intimately involved in education and social challenges, it may seem that third grade reading scores is randomly selected. It may also seem like third grade reading scores impact only elementary school teachers and not our wider community. However, research shows the huge implications this single data point can have on the wider economy, and dire third grade reading levels for some means ALL of us are held back from reaching our full potential.
A study commissioned by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that one in six children who are not reading proficiently in third grade do not graduate from high school on time, which is a rate four times greater than proficient readers. It’s estimated that students who do not graduate from high school cost society an additional $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes, and productivity. They’re also more likely to be arrested or have a child while still a teenager, which both have additional financial and social costs. These costs trickle down to individual and corporate taxpayers.
Locally, third grade reading impacts the entire community. With Kenosha County being one of Wisconsin’s manufacturing hubs and a hotbed of investment, development, and innovation, the fact that, according to the Wisconsin state exam, only 45% of our third graders are reading proficiently could be a liability in future economic success. With unemployment at its lowest rate since 1999 at 3.9%, this leaves little room for employers to access new employees. Even though more people are moving to Kenosha County, this still leaves our current residents behind, particularly those families living in poverty. While 62% of third graders who are not economically disadvantaged are proficient readers, only 27% of students who are can read proficiently.
Imagine if 100% of students who are economically disadvantaged could read proficiently, and what this could do for their high school graduation rate, Kenosha County’s talent base, and ultimately, breaking the cycle of poverty. Imagine what benefits this would have for you as a taxpayer, as an employee or employer, and as a community member.
How You Can Help
Third grade reading levels don’t only improve with going to school. Anyone can be involved in this work. Consider: