State addresses low reading scores, plans for future improvement

ALABAMA (WHNT) – Based on the 2021-2022 standardized test scores, more than one-fifth of Alabama third-graders are not reading at a proficient level.

“It means we have almost a quarter of our young people who are in the third grade and they are not reading on grade level, so we want to help those students as they progress to the fourth grade and into middle school to be better readers,” said Alabama State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey.

During the pandemic, the Alabama Department of Education expected to face some problems with students’ reading scores. Now that students are back in the classroom, Mackey said the state has several strategies in place to improve reading skills in elementary schools.

First, Mackey said the most important thing happening for students in the upcoming school year is the return to the classroom. He said it is important to identify which students need a little extra help reading, and this is easier to do when students and educators are face-to-face in the classroom.

“That’s why I feel really good about this coming school year,” Mackey said. “We think we won’t have the disruptions we’ve had in the past.”

Mackey said the state has worked to provide students with reading resources beyond the classroom if they need additional help.

“Get students, especially if they are behind, in summer programming,” Mackey said. “Summer reading camps are going on. STEM camps are going on. After-school camps are going on with our partners across the state.”

Many school districts in the state show wide score discrepancies between their top- and bottom-performing schools. Mackey said the problem is districts have to address it at the local level, and it is crucial to help students improve their reading scores as early as possible.

“There’s a pathway for each student, but the truth is, we know students that are behind at the end of third grade more likely stay behind their peers throughout their schooling experience,” Mackey said.

Mackey said parent engagement is key. The state encourages parents to establish relationships with their children’s schools. If your child is struggling, Mackey said to reach out to educators and the school for additional resources.

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