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Recognizing the importance of being able to read by third grade, the District 65 School Board has adopted third-grade reading goals on numerous occasions during the last 10 years. The District’s current strategic plan contains the goal, “Ensure, by the end of third grade, that students enrolled in the District for four continuous years are reading at grade level.” Over the years, the District has implemented many programs in an attempt to achieve these goals.

Despite these efforts,  48% of African American students and 51% of Hispanic students were reading at grade level on the 2012 Illinois Standard Achievement Test, using performance at the 50th percentile as the measure of grade-level performance.

Many national studies have traced lower performance in reading to a “vocabulary gap” that exists at kindergarten and first grade. Some studies have found a substantial relationship between vocabulary size in first grade and reading comprehension later on. They point up the importance of early childhood education.

On May 20, the District 65 School Board decided to schedule the District’s early childhood education programs and its progress on the third-grade reading goal as a separate discussion item this year. There was also support that the District 65 and 202 Joint Planning Committee discuss articulation of reading and language arts. On the same evening, District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon suggested “a citywide plan in partnership with District 65 to make reading our top learning priority as a community.”

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...