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Granite State Rumblings: Building A Stronger 4th Grade Reading Proficiency

Right now only about one-third of all children attending school in the United States can read proficiently by fourth grade. The numbers are even more dismaying for our most vulnerable students. How can state policymakers lessen the achievement gap and improve literacy outcomes for all children?

A new report from New America’s Education Policy Program examined the state of early education policy in all 50 states and Washington, DC and offers a framework for moving forward.

From Crawling to Walking: Ranking States on Birth- 3rd Grade Policies that Support Strong Readers, ranks states on 65 indicators in seven policy areas. The report found that most states are not taking a comprehensive approach when it comes to developing children’s literacy skills. Accompanying the research are interactive maps of state progress displayed via New America’s data visualization and policy analysis tool, Atlas.

Along the marathon course towards life success are several checkpoints for all children: kindergarten readiness, third grade reading proficiency, and of course high school graduation. States can help or hinder students in reaching these points. Right now, 11 states are crawling toward making sure children are able to read well by third grade. The majority of states, 34 and Washington, DC, are toddling. Only five states are walking: New York, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Connecticut, and Wisconsin. No state is running.

“Even New York, the highest scoring state, only earned the equivalent of a ‘C’ in letter grades,” says Laura Bornfreund, director of New America’s Early & Elementary Education team and lead author of the report.

Some of the highest scoring states might come as a surprise, such as West Virginia, which doesn’t always rise to the top on most state rankings. The report explains that West Virginia stands out because of its robust state pre-K program that includes basic quality indicators; it also requires districts to offer full-day kindergarten under state statute.

From Crawling to Walking measures states on a broad set of policy indicators that can help ensure children are on track to read on grade level by the end of third grade. For instance, states that prioritize the preparation and development of teachers of infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and the early elementary grades, as well as leaders of elementary schools and child care centers, are in a better position to meet this goal. But while a focus on educators is salient, it’s not enough on its own. States must also have in place:

  • Strong standards, assessments, and data systems;
  • Equitable funding;
  • High-quality pre-K;
  • Full-Day Kindergarten;
  • Supports for dual language learners;
  • And when they exist, third grade reading laws that focus on identification and intervention over holding children back.

The majority of states fall into the Toddling category, meaning they are meeting some indicators but clearly lacking on others. Finally, the report identifies the 11 states that have the most work to do–Kansas, Kentucky, Arizona, North Dakota, Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, New Hampshire, and Montana– as Crawling. The majority of states in this category do not have public pre-K programs and do not require districts to provide full-day kindergarten.

This scan of state policies finds that most states are far from the kind of unified alignment that fosters a strong early learning continuum for children. According to the report, “Several states are tackling pieces fairly well, but real progress will occur when states begin to knit those discrete policies together.”

The full report is available here.

~Source: New America Foundation’s Education Policy Program, From Crawling to Walking: Ranking States on Birth- 3rd Grade Policies that Support Strong Readers, by Laura Bornfreund, Abbie Lieberman, Shayna Cook, Aaron Lowenberg


Here’s what they had to say about New Hampshire’s approach when it comes to developing children’s literacy skills. New Hampshire’s ranking was Crawling.

Educators: Teachers and Leaders

New Hampshire has an early childhood education (ECE) teaching license that spans birth to third grade. New Hampshire’s elementary license spans kindergarten to sixth grade or kindergarten to eighth grade. Educators are not required to possess an ECE license in order to teach kindergarten. New Hampshire does not require principals to have specialized preparation in ECE prior to leading an elementary school. For licensed child care centers, directors of child care centers must have a CDA. Lead teachers in child care centers must have at least some classes in early childhood education.

Standards, Assessment, and Data

New Hampshire has comprehensive early learning guidelines for pre-K, infants, and toddlers as well as college and career-ready standards for grades K-12. When it comes to dual language learners, New Hampshire’s early learning standards specifically mention these learners in the Introduction and Communication and Literacy Development sections. While some states have developed K-12 social-emotional learning standards with specific indicators at each grade level, New Hampshire has not.

The state does not have a common statewide kindergarten entry assessment (KEA) that covers multiple domains of learning. New Hampshire does not provide requirements or recommendations for K-2nd grade literacy and math assessment.

New Hampshire can not link individual child data from ECE programs to its K-12 longitudinal data system. New Hampshire does collect ECE screening and assessment data from at least one type of early childhood program. New Hampshire’s QRIS began in 2005. It rates programs on learning environment, but not on teacher-child interactions.

Equitable Funding

One way to help create a stable source of pre-K funding is through the state’s K-12 school funding formula. At this time, New Hampshire does not fund pre-K programs through this mechanism. New Hampshire has a regressive funding distribution, providing its highest-poverty districts with about 89 cents for every dollar in low-poverty districts. The federal government recommends that states reimburse child care centers for children from families receiving child care subsidies at the 75th percentile of the state market rate for child care. New Hampshire does not meet this threshold. Throughout New Hampshire, the reimbursement rate for a four-year-old is 11 percent less than the 2013 market rate. New Hampshire reimburses child care centers based on a tiered system for quality.

Pre-K: Access and Quality

New Hampshire does not currently have a state-funded pre-K program.

Full-Day Kindergarten: Access and Quality

New Hampshire statute does not require school districts to offer full-day kindergarten and districts are not banned from charging tuition for full-day kindergarten. The minimum length of day in full-day kindergarten is not equivalent to that of first grade. Based on a 2005 report from the Education Commission of the States, full-day kindergarten is not funded at the same rate as first grade.

Dual Language Learner Supports

New Hampshire state law requires English-only instruction for all students, although bilingual programs are allowed with the state board and local school district’s approval. Dual language learners in New Hampshire must achieve a proficient score on the WIDA ACCESS test in order to exit the DLL system. New Hampshire’s family engagement laws do not specifically mention families that speak languages other than English at home. New Hampshire pre-K programs are not required to screen for DLLs.

3rd Grade Reading Laws

Currently, New Hampshire does not have a third grade reading law.

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

In Math, the percentage of fourth grade students in New Hampshire who performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level in 2015 was 51 percent for all students and 31 percent for low-income students. In Reading, the percentage of fourth grade students in New Hampshire who performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level in 2015 was 46 percent for all students and 26 percent for low-income students.



About MaryLou Beaver

New Hampshire Campaign Director Every Child Matters Education Fund
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