Report: Majority of MI 4th-Graders Reading Below Grade Level

Michigan isn’t making the grade when it comes to teaching children to read, according to a new report.

The study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that nearly seven out of 10 Michigan fourth-graders cannot demonstrate reading proficiency. The percentage of young readers lagging behind their grade level is even higher for kids from lower-income families, said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, Kids Count director at the Michigan League for Public Policy – and the gap is growing.

“So, if they’re struggling to read, their mastery of other subjects is going to be compromised,” she said. “We know that kids, as they fall behind, get discouraged and they’re more likely to drop out before graduating from high school, which is definitely an outcome we don’t want to see happening. ”

The report lists Michigan as one of only six states in the nation where fourth-grade reading skill levels have not improved over the past decade. Although Michigan increased its investment in early-childhood education last year, Zehnder-Merrell noted that K-through-12 spending has dropped 20 percent since 2003.

Zehnder-Merrell said the report highlights how much work is ahead on the road toward expanding an educated workforce, which she added is particularly critical as Michigan works to reinvent itself for the global economy.

“Previously, education was not a key to a good-paying job, but now it definitely is,” she said. “So, upping our game in education and investing in the K-12 system and early learning is essential.”

Nationally, the Casey Foundation report said, about half the students from higher-income families read proficiently by the fourth grade, compared with just one in five children from low-income households. If the trend continues, it warns, by the end of the decade the United States will not have enough skilled workers.

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Annie E. Casey Report:

This report was provided by Mona Shand with the Michigan News Connection.

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