Ohio’s lower-income fourth-graders were much more likely than higher-income fourth-graders to fall below reading proficiency standards in 2013, according to a report released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Four in five lower-income fourth-graders were declared below reading proficiency standards in 2013, the report found. Only 48 percent of higher-income fourth-graders fell below proficiency.
Ohio mostly matched the national trend: About 80 percent of lower-income fourth-graders and 49 percent of higher-income fourth-graders across the country read below proficient levels last year.
The report also found Ohio’s overall reading proficiency improved by 5 percent between 2003 and 2013, a notch below the nation’s 6 percent improvement.
The report comes as state officials implement the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which requires most Ohio third-graders to test as “proficient” before they advance to the fourth grade. Preliminary results showed one-third of Ohio students failing to pass the test, putting them at risk of retention.
“Ohio needs to do whatever it takes to get all children — especially low income and children of color — on track with this milestone,” said Renuka Mayadev, executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund of Ohio, in a statement. “The long-term prosperity of Ohio and our nation depends upon improving crucial educational outcomes such as reading proficiency.”
The report also speaks to some of the challenges Ohio and other states face in evaluating schools, teachers and students as the nation struggles with high levels of income inequality.
A Jan. 22 report from Policy Matters Ohio found high-scoring urban schools tend to have lower poverty rates than low-performing urban schools. In Cincinnati, nine of the 19 top-rated urban schools served a lower percentage of economically disadvantaged students than the district as a whole.
Another study from three school advocacy groups found Ohio’s school funding formula fails to fully account for how many resources school districts, including Cincinnati Public Schools, need to use to serve impoverished populations instead of basic education services. In effect, the discrepancy means Ohio’s impoverished school districts get even less funding per student for basic education than previously assumed.