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Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation

April 2011

Donald J. Hernandez


The study conducted surveyed reading proficiency levels and poverty as both separate and combined variables in regards to the impact of high school graduation rates. The study finds that students who fail to reach reading proficiency by the third grade often do not earn a high school diploma, and those students who are considered poor have an even greater chance. Statistically, 1 in 6 students who are not reading proficiently by third grade do not graduate. Furthermore, 22% of children who have lived in poverty do not graduate from high school

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Policy Implications

Educators and researchers conducted this study that involved 3,975 students born between 1979 and 1989, in which the students were then separated into three different income categories based on poverty. The study concluded that 22% of children who lived in poverty do not finish high school. This number increases to 32% for students that spend more than half of their childhood poor. It’s reported that Black and Hispanic students have the highest rates of poverty and the lowest reading proficiency levels. Therefore, the article implies that a policy would assist both students of color and impoverished students in both increasing third-grade reading proficiency levels which would in turn increase graduation rates.

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