March 1, 2016

Literacy by the Numbers

Decision-making should be data-driven. Armed with the facts, educators and parents are more likely to behave in ways that achieve results. Accordingly, let's focus on literacy research and ways to leverage statistics. Stats are more than numbers; they should improve decision-making in classrooms and at home.

In previous posts, a number of data-driven strategies designed to build strong readers are offered. This post highlights three literacy statistics every educator and parent should know. The trends below are worth sharing.

 How much learning have you missed?

Attend class
Missing 10 days of school equates to 94% attendance and is the same as missing 60 lessons.

On average, students attend school 180 days each year. In the graphic above, we see a relationship between class attendance and school days missed. The take-home message is that attendance matters. The number of class days missed is directly related to academic performance.

Lisa Freds' article titled Attendance Impact offers an eye-opening explanation of the value associated with attending class. As students miss additional class days, potential for success drops. Children experience added challenges with each missed lesson. What's worse, those already experiencing challenges are likely to give in and quit.

Are there times when children have to miss school? Absolutely. Unavoidable causes include illness and the passing of loved ones. Avoidable causes include behavior issues and dress code violations. No matter the cause, adults can mitigate the impact of missed learning by planning ahead and taking corrective action. If a child misses a lesson, try these suggestions.
  • Discuss missed objectives and activities.
  • Share relevant resources to reinforce learning objectives during missed days.
  • Encourage lots of reading during down times.

Sacrifice now
Students who do not achieve grade level literacy by 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than those who do.  

Our choices during early years set the tone for each student's future. It's challenging to express the importance of decisions made prior to third grade regarding reading, writing, and speaking. We can encourage or discourage development of higher level skills... instill self-governing behaviors or cede to children's whims... model positive attitudes about reading or shake our calling to promote student success.

 Why Reading By The End Of Third Grade Matters

Research tells us that performance in third grade serves is a predictor of many important aspects of academic and personal growth throughout a child's lifetime. In particular, those who do not read on grade level by the end of third grade are likely to struggle as they progress in school. What's more, struggling readers don't just struggle in reading. Math performance is affected. Science grades are affected. This domino effect happens because reading is fundamental to demonstrating understanding and skills. Students have to read homework, textbooks, and tests independently as early as kindergarten.

Whether students achieve grade level literacy by grade three also influences high school graduation rates. Third graders reading on grade level are four times more likely to graduate. Given that there are few viable employment options without an undergraduate degree and even fewer options without a high school diploma, it's imperative that we sacrifice now to develop strong readers.

Consider tomorrow
Surveys of Fortune 500 companies in 1978, 1985, and 1995 revealed trends in the evaluation of resumes. Compared to earlier years, the later survey found more emphasis on grammar and spelling than previously.

Speaking of employment opportunity, companies are taking steps to weed out illiterate applicants which raises the stakes for building strong readers. In the words of Dr. Steve Perry, founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut, "Our children's unimpressive performance will make them among the least sought-after employees". But, it doesn't have to be this way. We can sacrifice now by filling our respective roles as education stakeholders.

I launched Jackson Education Support for this very reason. Visit the site to learn more.