Rhode Island students have made big gains in the past 10 years in reading ability, but still 62 percent of fourth graders are not reading at a proficient level, according to the latest number.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress release a new report Tuesday highlighting fourth grade reading proficiency rates over a 10‐year period in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Data from the NAEP shows all but six states have made progress in improving reading proficiency rates from 2003 to 2013.
Rhode Island tied with Maryland and the District of Columbia in making the biggest gains in 4th grade reading proficiency, improving by 9 percentage points. In 2013, 62 percent of RI fourth graders were below proficiency levels, compared with 71 percent in 2003, the NAEP study shows.
Falling below proficiency levels does not mean those students can not read. Proficiency means having mastered every skill at that grade level, according to Elliot Krieger, spokesman for the Rhode Island Department of Education. A "large percentage of students" are reading at the basic level.
"We're not where we want to be, of course, but we're very pleased with the results," Krieger said, noting similar improvement in reading levels on the New England Common Assessment Program over the past 5 years.
Nationally, 66 percent of fourth-graders are below proficient. Massachusetts ranked highest in the country, with just 53 percent below proficient. New Mexico and Mississippi tied for last, with 79 percent.
“This is good news for Rhode Island," Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, said in a release. "Reading proficiently by fourth grade is a key indicator of a student’s future educational and economic success.”
Despite improvements made in Rhode Island and across the country, two‐thirds of children in the country are not reading at a proficient level, according to the NAEP data. There are also wide achievement gaps on both a racial and economic scale.
Rhode Island mirrors the national trends. More than 80 percent of low-income children are not proficient, compared to 45 percent of fourth graders from higher-income families. Nationally, 83 percent of black students, 81 percent of Hispanic students and 78 percent of Native American students are below proficient, compared to 55 percent of their white and 49 percent of the Asian peers.
A community-by-community breakdown of the 2013 numbers will be available later this week when the state Department of Education releases the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) results, due out Friday, Jan. 31.