Improving third-grade literacy is among the priorities detailed by President Barack Obama and the 10 leading foundations working with the White House on the initiative announced Feb. 27. Mastering reading by the end of third grade is essential for school success since students begin to transition at that point from learning to read to reading to learn. Those who do not hit the proficiency mark by then are four times more likely to drop out of high school, research shows. Among those who do not read well, the dropout rates are twice as high for African-American and Hispanic students as they are for white students.
White male students are three times more likely to be reading proficiently in the fourth grade than their African-American peers and more than twice as likely as Hispanic boys, according to a data analysis by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Center. The statistics are even more startling for children of color from low-income families, with just 10 percent of the African-American boys and 14 percent of Hispanic boys reading proficiently, compared to 25 percent for their white peers.
The foundations — the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The California Endowment, the Ford Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Kapor Center for Social Impact, the Open Society Foundations, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation — have already committed $150 million toward programs helping young men of color reach their full potential in school, work and life. Several corporate sponsors are also joining the initiative.