Reading is the foundation of success in school, the workplace and civic life. Yet, despite Massachusetts' reputation as a national leader in education, 43% of the state's third graders scored below proficient on the latest MCAS reading test. Among third graders from low-income families, 61% scored below proficient in reading, according to the 2014 MCAS. And performance on this critical benchmark, which strongly predicts children’s chances of success in school and beyond, remains virtually unchanged since 2001. Research tells us that the path to turning this around starts at birth, with children’s earliest language development, and includes high-quality early education.
The stakes are high. Children who struggle with reading in third grade are four times less likely than other children to finish high school by age 19. In Massachusetts, almost 8,000 students dropped out of high school in 2011-12. Each Bay State dropout, on average, costs $349,000 more over a lifetime—in decreased tax revenues and increased public assistance costs—than the average graduate.
In 2010, Strategies for Children commissioned a report from Nonie Lesaux, Ph.D., a nationally known expert on language development and literacy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and launched a 10-year campaign to improve children’s reading across the commonwealth. In “Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success", Lesaux offers recommendations to improve the language and literacy development of children from birth to age 9.
In 2012, Strategies for Children launched a two-pronged best practices initiative to help communities implement the above recommendations.
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