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Raise DC Releases Grim Report On D.C. Schools, Finds Only Four In Ten D.C. Third Graders Are Proficient Readers

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A new report by Raise DC is using student data to help set standards to improve the District's education system. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Jumpstart) | Getty Images

Only four in 10 D.C. third-graders are proficient readers and even fewer are proficient in math, according to a report release Monday.

According to the baseline report -- which measures the District’s pre-kindergarten through high school performance -- 40.7 percent of third-graders scored “proficient” or “advanced” on D.C.’s standardized testing system, while only 37.2 percent of third-graders reached these levels in math.

The report was put out by Raise DC, a citywide partnership of public, private, philanthropic and nonprofit groups created by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D), to evaluate the current condition of D.C.’s education system and to set measureable goals for the coming years.

Such goals include raising the percentage of students graduating high school in four years from 61 percent to 75 percent and to decrease the number of adolescents who are neither attending school nor working. However, goals relating to the District’s third grade reading and math proficiency scores have yet to be determined.

The District isn’t the only region struggling with low reading proficiency levels. According to The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, more than two-thirds of students nationwide fail to meet grade-level reading standards by the end of third grade -- which has major societal effects.

The group argues that poor reading aptitude disproportionally impacts students from low-income families, with four out of five low-income students failing to meet this milestone.

Education experts agree that students who fail to meet reading proficiency standards by the end of third grade often struggle to succeed in subsequent grades and are at a much higher risk of dropping out of school without a diploma.

The price of dropping out of school is not only costly for students, but also for society. According to a special report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, each high school dropout costs the United States an estimated $260,000, which stems from lost wages, taxes and productivity.

Given these findings, the Annie E. Casey Foundation urges lawmakers, the Obama Administration, educators and community organizations to collaboratively act and help children avoid “the dropout track.”

“The bottom line is that if we don’t get dramatically more children on track as proficient readers, the United States will lose a growing and essential proportion of its human capital to poverty,” states the report. “The price will be paid not only by individual children and families, but by the entire country.”

Raise DC hopes that with the data collected in its baseline report, the organization can better prepare students by helping the District develop and implement a plan to address D.C.’s educational challenges.

“Instead of dispersing resources in an uncoordinated manner in the hopes that it will have an impact somewhere for some child or family, we now know exactly what we need to focus on if we are going to achieve significant gains in our educational and workforce readiness outcomes,” D.C.'s mayor said in a press release Monday.

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