Thursday, February 27, 2014

Third Grade reading proficiency and probability of graduating high school on time

From Early Warning Confirmed from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Interesting data.
In 2011, sociologist Donald Hernandez reported that children who do not read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers. His analysis of data on nearly 4,000 students showed that dropout rates were highest for the children reading below NAEP’s “basic” level: 23 percent of these children failed to graduate on time, compared to 9 percent of children with basic reading skills and 4 percent of proficient readers. Looked at another way, Hernandez found that “children with the lowest reading scores account for a third of students but for more than three-fifths (63 percent) of all children who do not graduate from high school.” He also found that black and Hispanic children who are not reading proficiently in third grade are twice as likely as similar white children not to graduate from high school (about 25 vs. 13 percent).
The report's authors get tangled up in shifting comparisons and their headline story gets lost in the thickets. Third graders who are not proficient in reading are six times more likely to dropout than those who are proficient; a 23% dropout rate versus a 4% dropout rate for proficient readers. Since non-completion of high school is highly correlated with a wide range of other later in life negative outcomes, it reinforces the importance of simply keeping up with reading skill acquisition.

It is intriguing that the report writers then try and muddy the waters by introducing the highly correlated issue of poverty. Why? From their own numbers, if you address the reading skill acquisition problem, you obviate much of the impact of poverty.

The uncharitable conclusion might be that it is hard, complicated and frequently unrewarding and unappreciated work helping people acquire the necessary Knowledge, Experience, Skills, Values and Behaviors (KESVB) associated with good life outcomes whereas it is much more psychologically rewarding to take money from some people to give to others. Very uncharitable but there is an increasing volume of evidence (see the works of William Easterly and Thomas Sowell) that that likely is the dynamic that is occurring.

Eric Hoffer's comments seem pertinent.
When hopes and dreams are loose in the streets, it is well for the timid to lock doors, shutter windows and lie low until the wrath has passed. For there is often a monstrous incongruity between the hopes, however noble and tender, and the action which follows them.

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