Third Grade Reading Scores

Madison third graders rank BELOW the state-wide average for children in the advanced and proficient categories.
Nearly one-third of the African-American third graders read at basic or below. (And basic is below grade level.)
African-American third grades still trail white students by a substantial margin.
Schools at the bottom in 1978-79 are still at the bottom in 2004-2005.
Click here to view an Excel file with eight years of reading scores.

Reading isn’t just something nice that kids should learn. It’s critical. Based on the most recent third grade reading test results, we can say with absolute certainty that one-third of the the tested third graders will not succeed in school! That’s unacceptable.
The Board of Education should include among its goals an immediate review of the MMSD’s reading programs to throw out the unscientific practices and replace them with curriculum based on research outlined by Professor Mark Seidenberg below.

4 thoughts on “Third Grade Reading Scores”

  1. Of Mr. Blume’s 13 top-ranked schools, the free/reduced lunch (FRL) percentage (8 yr mean) ranges from 11-30%. Of the 14 bottom-ranked, FRL ranges from 38-64% (with 2 exceptions: O.R.=20% and Muir=24%). A cursory look at the data indicate that economic status exerts a powerful influence on aggregate school reading scores. In Mr. Blume’s world, one would look to Van Hise (FRR=11%) to inform instructional practices at Mendota (FRR=60%) and Lincoln (64%).
    A more serious analysis would begin by noting that nearly all kids who fall below proficient are also low-income. If one were then to begin to look for noteworthy instructional models by measuring school performance based exclusively on the reading outcomes of FRL kids, the rankings would be vastly different. Many higher-income schools (Elvehjem, Kennedy, V.H., Gompers, Stephens) would sink in the rankings while many lower-income schools would rise (Mendota, Lincoln, Lowell, Thoreau, Hawthorne). Adjustment for special education and ESL students would more precisely identify the good and poor performers among MMSD’s elementary schools.
    The powerful and predictable influence of family income on educational outcomes is well known. To ignore it while comparing economically disparate schools is, to put it charitably, simply not useful.
    Relentless, superficial criticism tends to crowd out insight.

  2. Thanks, Niel, for your comments.
    Your argument boils down to saying that low-income kids can’t learn, and that’s just not true. A low-income kid can learn just as well as any other income kid, if the instruction is based on a scientifically proven curriculum.
    MMSD third graders have been in school since kindergarten, and I expect the MMSD to teach them how to read whether they’re poor or rich. You correctly point out that the figures show that the MMSD fails to teach low-income kids. If the MMSD would adopt one or more appropriate reading curricula, those low-income kids could be reading at grade level in third grade.

  3. In looking at the third and fourth grade scores when they first came out this spring, I noticed Falk and Huegel (both high low income…the two highest in there attendance area) did rather well…even higher than some non-SAGE MMSD schools in the district.
    THAT data does not agree with the statement that “figures show that the MMSD fails to teach low-income kids”
    A balance of income in all our schools would provide an ease of analysis, by providing equal playing fields.

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