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What We Stand For: Literacy

Reading by 4th grade


A child who cannot read by the start of the 4th grade is four times more likely to drop out of high school and will likely remain behind his or her peers in subsequent school years.The ability to read is critical to a child’s success in school, life-long earning potential, and their ability to contribute to the nation’s economy. That is why it is imperative that we ensure every child is reading on grade level at this critical stage by implementing proven solutions and establishing early interventions.


  1. Create research-backed state and school district reading standards that are proven to be effective for all children — including a well-developed plan for supporting English Learners
  2. Establish a way to identify struggling readers early on, as well as effective interventions and supports for struggling readers — including giving these students access to the most effective reading teachers
  3. Improve measures to ensure states, school districts, and schools are making progress in early literacy skills and 3rd grade reading proficiency
  4. Provide ongoing professional development for teachers that is aligned with the curriculum and focuses on early literacy instruction, as well as 4th grade reading comprehension
  5. Improve teacher preparation and graduate teachers who understand literacy


  • Literacy, defined as the ability to write, speak, listen, think, and read effectively, is a crucial developmental step that enables young children, adolescents, and adults to communicate clearly.
  • Failure to obtain necessary literacy skills in the early grades undermines children’s ability to succeed in school and life, as they move into the later grades and experience difficulty understanding and achieving in the content areas. Institute for Education Sciences, “Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices,” 2008
  • Fortunately, there is a wealth of research on literacy, including numerous high-quality evaluations, enabling policymakers and practitioners to identify and focus resources on effective policies and strategies. A good starting point for this research is the What Works Clearinghouse,
  • Three elements are essential to any school or district literacy program: professional development for teachers and principals, ongoing formative assessment, and summative assessment of student progress to evaluate the effectiveness of the strategies adopted and make changes as needed. A report to the Carnegie Corporation of New York produced by the Alliance for Excellent Education, “Reading Next: A Vision for Action and Research in Middle and High School Literacy,” 2004, accessed on November 12, 2011



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