Third Grade Reading Laws: Implementation and Impact

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A robust body of research attests to the importance of early literacy, and other critical areas of development and learning from birth through third grade. Students who are reading at grade level at the end of third grade are more likely to succeed in other subjects and are more likely to graduate high school on time. Given this, state education leaders know that reading is an indispensable part of every student’s education. But average elementary school reading results nationally have not changed significantly in the past ten years. Unacceptably large achievement and equity gaps persist, especially for historically underserved student subgroups, including low-income students, students of color, dual language learners, and students with developmental delays or disabilities. Recognizing the critical importance of early literacy, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) have both worked intensively with states on birth through third grade improvement strategies across literacy and other learning domains. Third grade reading laws are one strategy that many states have employed to address early literacy challenges; at least 26 states have passed third grade reading laws over the past 20 years. This brief is intended to give an overview of the current status of state third grade reading laws and policies, with the goal of supporting states’ early literacy goals.

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