Around half of Louisiana’s kindergarten through third-grade students were not reading at grade level in the fall of 2022, according to Shanna Beber, the executive director of literacy for the Louisiana Department of Education.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Early Literacy Commission received a synopsis of the state’s 2022 fall reading report on Tuesday, though the full report was still undergoing a final review before being released.
But the data available — which includes results from literacy screeners given to K-3 students across the state — shows that the state still has significant issues when it comes to reading.
“We know we have a lot of work to do,” Beber said. “Obviously, we’re a little disappointed in it.”
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The commission did not dive deep into the specifics of the report, but Beber said the state overall had a 0.6 percentage-point increase in reading proficiency from 2021. In 2021, 49.2% of students were reading at grade level or higher across the four grades .
She said the state saw a decline in kindergarten proficiency, but the other grade levels generally saw stronger improvement. Beber said the department has some additional recommendations it will make to try to improve reading skills in early childhood.
“Overall, we did see an increase, but obviously that’s not what we would like to see,” Beber said. “We still have about 50% of our students who are still reading below grade level.”
One of the commission’s co-chairs, Deputy State Superintendent Jenna Chiasson, did mention that she does not consider this data to be completely indicative of the state’s overall literacy situation. Under the current structure, each screener tests a specific area of literacy at each grade level, and multiple different screeners are being used across the state.
The state is moving toward using a single screener statewide, which could be in place by fall 2023, Beber said.
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In 2021, 41.5% of kindergarten students were reading at or above grade level, along with 49.6% of first graders, 52.5% of second graders, and 53.2% of third graders. Commission members pointed out that the state had significantly higher proficiency levels in 2017, which might have been the result of some programs that are no longer in place or a diminished emphasis on reading in subsequent years.
More recently, the state has stepped up efforts to improve reading. LDOE Superintendent Cade Brumley has repeatedly referred to the state’s reading levels as a “literacy crisis.” Beber said the full impact of the new initiatives will likely be seen in the fall 2023 report. This school year is the first year that many of the changes have been put into place.
“When we start thinking through the implementation of all of the policies that have been put forth, the recommendations that have been put forth, I would say that – even the goal on the NAEP scores that we set – was for this year’s kindergarteners,” Beber said.
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This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: Half of Louisiana early elementary students not reading at grade level