Since Pandemic's Start, 42 States See Rise in Fourth-Graders Below Reading Proficiency

Posted November 4, 2022
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

In the first data release from the Nation­al Assess­ment of Edu­ca­tion­al Progress since the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic began, 2022 find­ings reveal that more than two-thirds (68%) of U.S. fourth-graders are not pro­fi­cient in read­ing, up from 66% in 2019

Learn­ing loss­es are even more pro­nounced at the state lev­el. From 2019 to 2022, 42 states and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., saw increas­es in the share of fourth-graders scor­ing below pro­fi­cient in read­ing, with 29 states see­ing jumps greater than two per­cent­age points. Delaware and West Vir­ginia expe­ri­enced the largest spikes of eight per­cent­age points, reach­ing an alarm­ing 75% and 78% of stu­dents unable to read pro­fi­cient­ly, respec­tive­ly. States’ fig­ures cur­rent­ly span 57% in Mass­a­chu­setts to 79% in New Mex­i­co. Look up the per­cent­age in your state.

Fourth-Grade Read­ing Matters

Chil­dren who reach fourth grade with­out being able to read pro­fi­cient­ly are more like­ly to drop out of high school, reduc­ing their earn­ings poten­tial and chances for suc­cess. Kids with poor read­ing skills are also more like­ly to engage in high-risk behav­ior dur­ing ado­les­cence. This issue is a nation­al pri­or­i­ty, as the U.S. gov­ern­ment has set a pub­lic health objec­tive to improve fourth-grade read­ing pro­fi­cien­cy by 2030.

Fourth grade marks a crit­i­cal tran­si­tion peri­od when chil­dren begin switch­ing from learn­ing to read to read­ing to learn oth­er sub­jects in school. How­ev­er, when kids enter fourth grade with­out basic read­ing skills, they often have a dif­fi­cult time catch­ing up and fall fur­ther behind across subjects.

Chil­dren who have few­er ear­ly learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties, such as ear­ly child­hood edu­ca­tion, tend to enter kinder­garten at a dis­ad­van­tage and stay behind in sub­se­quent grades. This, and access to oth­er resources, con­tributes to sig­nif­i­cant dis­par­i­ties in fourth-grade read­ing skills by socioe­co­nom­ic sta­tus and race/​ethnicity.

Read­ing Pro­fi­cien­cy Find­ings by Race and Ethnicity

The KIDS COUNT® Data Cen­ter also pro­vides a mea­sure of fourth-graders scor­ing below pro­fi­cient in read­ing by race and eth­nic­i­ty. New data show:

These and oth­er edu­ca­tion data, along with find­ings in the 2022 KIDS COUNT Data Book, indi­cate that our nation is not pro­vid­ing Amer­i­can Indi­an, Black and Lati­no chil­dren with the oppor­tu­ni­ties and sup­port they need to thrive aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly and in oth­er areas of life.

Access more resources on edu­ca­tion and racial equi­ty and inclu­sion from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Sign up for our newslet­ters to get the lat­est data, reports and resources

Popular Posts

View all blog posts   |   Browse Topics

Youth with curly hair in pink shirt

blog   |   June 3, 2021

Defining LGBTQ Terms and Concepts

A mother and her child are standing outdoors, each with one arm wrapped around the other. They are looking at each other and smiling. The child has a basketball in hand.

blog   |   August 1, 2022

Child Well-Being in Single-Parent Families