As business leaders in education, Nevada Succeeds is looking for the best Return on Investment (ROI) for our education system: what really works, what truly moves the needle, and which investments matter most. Research shows that early literacy lays the foundation for all other learning to come, and that the 3rd grade is when a student transitions from learning how to read to using the act of reading as a tool to learn more advanced concepts. Nothing is more essential than supporting our schools to ensure every student is on track for reading success by the end of third grade.
Here’s why we’re so concerned about this issue.
The fact is that Nevada is at the back of the pack when it comes to preparing our students for college and career success. We have one of the lowest high school graduation rates of any state in the union. Even among those who graduate high school, many lack the skills and training they need to transition successfully into the workforce. Nevada’s business community has experienced the ramifications first hand; hiring can be incredibly difficult and many employers are forced to look beyond our state borders for qualified candidates. The long-term sustainability of Nevada’s economy hangs in the balance.
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, nearly 90 percent of students who fail to graduate high school were struggling readers in third grade. Think about that. We basically know whether a Nevada student will graduate high school by the time he/she turns nine years old. If he/she cannot read proficiently, the rest of his/her education will be an uphill struggle. We should recognize this as an urgent wake-up call. But as a state, we’ve been sleeping through the alarm.
Consider these facts:
Children who are not reading proficiently in third grade are four times less likely to graduate from high school. Economically disadvantaged Black and Hispanic students who are struggling readers are about eight times more likely to drop out of high school than proficient readers.
Economically disadvantaged Black and Hispanic students who are struggling readers are about eight times more likely to drop out of high school than proficient readers.
Seven of every 10 prison inmates can’t read above a fourth-grade level.
High school dropouts make up 75 percent of citizens receiving food stamps and 90 percent of Americans on welfare.
We need to get serious about making sure our students are reading proficiently by the end of third grade. It’s the best investment we can make with tremendous long-term returns. Like other states that have come to understand the significance of early literacy, Nevada is taking a holistic approach to educational improvement through the passage of strong literacy legislation. In Nevada, that legislation is Senate Bill 391, sponsored by Sen. Becky Harris. The bill reflects a commitment to proven and comprehensive intervention strategies, including a balance of greater accountability and increased support. Important elements of the bill include:
A focus on early diagnosis and early intervention: SB 391 requires school districts and charter schools to develop a literacy plan designed to provide targeted supports to students struggling in reading. This marks a fundamental shift in the culture around literacy instruction in Nevada.
A needed emphasis on professional development: SB 391 helps teachers and leaders have the explicit skills to ensure that students master the essential components of reading.
Retention as a last resort: SB 391 provides multiple pathways for students to demonstrate reading proficiency, so this intervention is only used when necessary. In cases where it would be used, it would require students to be placed with a highly effective teacher.
With this policy and the attached funding, Nevada will take a huge first step in preparing our students for a competitive global economy. Too many students are not receiving the education they deserve, and this policy is a strong step in the right direction.