CHARLESTON, W.Va. – More than seven in 10 West Virginia students are not reading proficiently at the end of the third grade. That’s according to new numbers out from Kids Count.
“I think [the numbers] are very shocking and I’m surprised that more people aren’t shocked by them too,” said Margie Hale, the executive director of West Virginia Kids Count.
The national rate of non-proficiency is 68 percent and even the best states in the country only have a 50 percent proficiency rate. Hales stressed this is not just a West Virginia problem, it’s a national problem. But because West Virginia has more low income families, it tends to be more wide spread.
Monroe, Hardy and Grant counties all have non-proficiency rates of over 70 percent. The most proficient school systems in West Virginia, according to Kids Count, are Clay, followed by Putnam and Pendleton counties.
So what’s the difference between the lowest counties and the highest? Hale said she was recently in a Clay County third grade classroom and found out their success story.
“[The teacher] collaborates with the first and second grade teachers about her children. What are their strengths and weaknesses? What do we need to build on,” explained Hale. “She also collaborates with the fourth grade teacher.”
Hale said the real learning gap starts as early as three-years-old. She stressed kids who come from high to medium income families tend to have parents who rhyme with them, read to them and play with them more than families who are in the low income bracket.
“Kids from wealthier families have heard 30 million more words than children from low income families,” said Hale. “Isn’t that incredible?”
She said that gives young kids a better grasp on word comprehension and helps them in the classroom.
But help is on the way for those children who aren’t among the most proficient readers.
“There are new common core standards that are coming out that are more based on applying your knowledge to real life rather than rote memory,” according to Hale. She added that will be key for children in the future. As for those with poor reading proficiency now, Hale said unless something is done, the state is looking at big problems.
“If it’s not fixed, it’s going to create more kids who aren’t prepared, who aren’t working, who aren’t paying taxes, who are getting married too soon — all those things that happen to kids that don’t have a basic [reading] foundation!”
Hale said she’d like to see pre-K extended to include 3-year-olds because the earlier the child receives individual help the better chance they’ll become a proficient reader.
To see where your county ranks in reading proficiency, log on to www.wvkidscount.org.