Spotlight Exclusives

Poverty Puts Struggling Readers in Double Jeopardy

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Theconnection between low high school graduation rates and poverty is welldocumented. A new national report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation by DonaldJ. Hernandez, professor of sociology at Hunter College, zeros in on one vitalaspect of the high school graduation rates plus poverty equationreadingproficiency. The report, Double Jeopardy: How Poverty &Third-Grade Reading Skills Influence High School Graduation, confirmsthe devastating impact of poverty on a child۪s ability to learn to read andeventually graduate from high school.


Thestudy of nearly 4,000 students shows that children who don۪t read proficientlyby the end of third grade are four times more likely to leave high schoolwithout a diploma than proficient readers. These numbers are worse for kids wholive in poverty. Students who don۪t read proficiently in third grade and havelived in poverty were three times more likely to drop out or fail to graduateon time than their more affluent peers.


Consequently,children in poor families are in double jeopardy: they are more likely to havelow reading test scores and, at any reading-skill level, are less likely tograduate from high school. For children with two risk factors poverty andreading skills below the proficient mark 26 percent do not graduate from highschool compared with nine percent of their more affluent peers with belowproficient reading skills.

Evenif a child who lives in poverty can read proficiently in third grade, theirchances of graduating are about the same (11 percent fail to graduate on time) asa subpar reader who has never been poor (nine percent).


The report recommends providingquality early education programs for more children and aligning  those programs with the curriculum andstandards in the primary grades; paying better attention to health anddevelopmental needs of young children; and providing work training and otherprograms that will help lift families out of poverty.


Reading is afundamental skill that all children need to succeed in school. This studyprovides a definitive link between poverty, poor reading skills and high schoolgraduation, and bolsters the urgent need to provide quality education to allchildren, especially those living in poverty, to break the cycle ofintergenerational poverty.


Posted by Amy


Here at Out ofthe Spotlight, we offer a behind-the-scenes look at the latest news andinformation essential to anyone working to fight poverty. From key politicalappointees to clashes over policy, we cover the news that doesn’t always makethe evening news. Check out Out of the Spotlight for our take on thetwists and turns of the latest political developments and their impact onpoverty reduction. Topics and ideas are welcome! Just contact or

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