Overall, kids entering the first grade are better readers than they were 12 years ago.
This is according to a study from The Ohio State University, which has found that many students are learning in kindergarten the basic reading skills they had been learning in first grade. This means important skills are being taught sooner, and that they’re sticking. The gap between low-achieving students and other students has also closed in those basic skills.
However, the gap is still there, and is still significant. And what’s more, while the gap for basic reading skills (letter identification, word recognition, identifying and using sounds, and print awareness) has closed, the gap has actually grown when it comes to more advanced skills such as text reading.
“Overall, it is good news,” said study co-author Jerome D’Agostino, a professor of educational studies at OSU. “We have evidence that the increased emphasis on learning important skills earlier in life is having a real impact on helping develop reading abilities by first grade.”
However, it seems that strategies to help preschoolers who are having problems with language skills needs to be adjusted, said study co-author Emily Rodgers, an associate professor of teaching and learning at Ohio State.
“We’re probably spending too much time emphasizing basic skills for the low-achieving students, when we should be giving them more opportunities to actually read text,” she said.
The study involved 364,738 children in 44 states. This included 313,488 low-achieving students who participated in Reading Recovery, a literacy intervention for first graders. Another 51,250 randomly selected students from the same schools also participated. The students took a screening test called An Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement, which measures the four basic skills as well as two advanced skills, writing vocabulary and text reading.
The research revealed that average scores on all six parts of the test increased over the 12 years of study, which suggested to the study’s authors that many children end kindergarten with the skills they used to learn in first grade.
The data can’t say why the advanced-skills achievement gap widened, though.
“There’s a missing link between teaching low-achieving students basic literacy skills and having them actually put those skills to use in reading,” D’Agostino said. “We don’t know what that is yet.”
“We’re getting the low-achievement students only part of the way there,” Rodgers said. “They’re doing better at learning sounds and letters and now we have to do a better job helping them put it all together and read text.”