If it’s true that third-grade reading proficiency helps predict a child’s achievement later in life, then according to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College Careers (PARCC) exam, assessing third graders’ reading levels, the future doesn’t look bright for the majority of Rhode Island’s kids. In 2015, the exam showed that just over one-third of the state’s third graders were reading at grade level.
This is worrisome not only because the third grade reading level is the leading indicator of a variety of long-term successes in a child’s life, including graduation from high school and higher lifetime earnings. But poor reading may also signal health problems, from lead poisoning to behavioral health issues. Spurred by these statistics, in September of 2016, Governor Gina Raimondo and the Children’s Cabinet, a group of educators and health leaders charged with paying special attention to the wellbeing and education of Rhode Island’s children, joined together to launch the Third Grade Reading Action Plan. According to Cara Harrison ’11, a policy analyst for early childhood in Governor Raimondo’s office and the project manager for the Plan, its primary goal is for 75 percent of Rhode Island third graders to be reading at grade level by 2025.