Arizona is fighting a literacy crisis. And Piper Trust is committed to helping. In the 2013-14 school year, Arizona’s mandatory retention policy, Move On When Reading (ARS 15-701), takes effect. This law requires that third-grade students who test in the “falls far below” range (estimated at 4,000) be held back. In addition, there are approximately 17,500 third-grade students below proficiency, placing them at risk. The Move On When Reading retention policy illuminates the importance of addressing this crisis—and addressing it early. Research shows that children entering kindergarten without the skills they need to succeed in school rarely read proficiently by third grade, a milestone that is a strong predictor of future academic and vocational success. “Up until third grade, children are learning to read,” says Marilee Dal Pra, Piper Trust’s vice president of programs. “Once they hit fourth grade, the expectation is that they know how to read. So now they’re reading to learn. If they’re not prepared for that shift and aren’t reading at grade level, they are at a huge disadvantage.” The research is chilling. Students who cannot read well by the end of third grade face diminished future prospects. Seventy-four percent of kids who are poor readers in third grade remain poor readers in ninth grade. Worse, unskilled readers are unlikely to graduate from high school. To complicate matters, many of Arizona’s 800,000 children under age 9 face significant barriers to school readiness, including poverty, limited exposure to English, and lack of access to books.
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