external-linkRelated: Matching Available Jobs and Qualified WorkersResearchers find that most students need to read proficiently by the end of third grade to be successful in their future studies and careers. Metro Atlanta falls short in this area, risking the long-term economic viability of the region.

The third grade is when students transition from learning to read to reading to learn

In the Atlanta region, only 40% of third-graders are hitting the mark. That matters, because students with weak reading abilities are four times more likely to drop out of high school later on. Students who are behind the curve at third grade are also less likely to someday take college aptitude tests, or they got lower scores, hurting their chances to get a good post-secondary education.

infographic - 3rd grade reading level

“The third grade is a critical threshold for our children,” said Dr. R. Stephen Green, superintendent of DeKalb County Schools. “The research is very clear that’s the transition from learning to read, to reading to learn.” For students who don’t make that jump, “the future is significantly compromised,” he said.

And while that outcome is consistent among all groups, researchers found that students with disabilities, economic disadvantages or limited English language proficiency struggled the most with making the leap to strong reading skills.

Regional Players

external-linkRelated: Living in Metro Atlanta

Insights & Innovation

In many metro regions across the country, school districts, community organizations, volunteers and philanthropists have banded together and successfully tackled educational challenges that put their economies at risk.

In metro Atlanta, eight school districts and four non-profit organizations, including the Atlanta Regional Commission, have formed the “Learn4Life” initiative to target six key educational goals, including improving eighth-grade math skills, high school graduation rates, college enrollment totals and completion rates for post-secondary education. Improving third-grade reading levels is the project’s first goal.

The focus is “cradle to career” learning, said Ann Cramer, senior consultant with Coxe Curry & Associates and a member of Learn4Life’s executive committee. “Learn4Life is one of the regional approaches that will yield for us a prosperous, vital Metropolitan Atlanta region.”

This “collective impact” model is being used in about 70 communities across the country and has proved successful. For example, metro Cincinnati has been at this work for about a decade and has seen consistent improvement in outcomes.