Too many children lack the reading skills needed to succeed in school and in life. Local organizations, such as those participating in L.O.U. Reads, and national partners, such as those engaged with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, are working to ensure that all children in our country, regardless of race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status, are proficient readers by the end of third grade.
Across the United States
According to the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, ~67% of children in the United States are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade, as measured by the NAEP test. Sadly, that percentage is even higher among low-income families, with over 80% of children living in poverty not meeting proficiency standards.
This severely restricts the possibilities of our next generation, as third grade reading is an important predictor of future success in school and in life. In response, a national network of non-profits, businesses, community stakeholders, and government agencies organized to promote reading at grade-level. The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading unites communities around this issue, while recognizing that each has its individual challenges and unique characteristics. L.O.U Reads applied for membership in the Campaign's network in June of 2014 and in early 2015 became the second of only two Mississippi communities to formally join the network.
In Lafayette-Oxford-University (L.O.U.)
Research shows that reading proficiently by the end of third grade enables students to shift from "learning to read" to "reading to learn," and to master the more complex subject matter in the fourth grade curriculum. Students who fail to reach this critical milestone often continue to struggle in the later grades and are more likely to drop out before earning a high school diploma. Children who arrive at kindergarten unprepared are at heightened risk. Unfortunately, not all children in the L.O.U. community enter kindergarten ready for school or are reading proficiently by the end of third grade.
In 2013, 72% of all third graders in the Oxford School District and 70% of all third graders in the Lafayette County School District scored proficient or advanced on Mississippi's MCT2 exam. Despite the success of nearly three-quarters of the third graders in each of our two public school districts, an academic achievement gap existed along both racial/ethnic and economic lines. Addressing these academic achievement gaps is critical to school success, the future of individual students, and the collective prosperity of Lafayette County.
Several cross-cutting issues underlie the overall challenges to grade-level reading in our county. You can read more about them in our Community Solutions Action Plan (CSAP), which is available here. Those issues include:
All families have their children's best interests at heart. However, not everyone in our community is aware of the value of early learning and the long-term importance of reading at grade level by the end of third grade. Ensuring that all children meet this critical milestone will require engaging families, local nonprofits, area businesses, and the community as a whole. Everyone's participation and support is essential, and achieving our goal will improve the quality of life for all who live here.
Compared to many Mississippi communities, L.O.U. has a rich set of school-led and community-based pre-kindergarten, after-school, and summer learning programs. However, many of the programs are able to serve only a fraction of the children who could benefit from them, while others-- particularly those taking place during the summer--are short-term, running for as little as two weeks.
There are a variety of access-related issues in Lafayette County. They include the limited availability of free and low-cost pre-kindergarten and out-of-school time opportunities, as well as challenges that are specific to serving a rural community with centralized programs and limited public transportation.
There are many great things already happening in L.O.U., but more can be done to align efforts, reduce duplication of services, and make sure that community programs and resources are explicitly linking with each other, as well with families and schools, to maximize our collective impact for kids.
While the L.O.U. community gathers much information on its students and their achievement, there is more that can be done to collect data on all important indicators, align the data collected across agencies and organizations, and analyze/share data to help improve services and achievement.