by Sarah D. Sparks
"Mr. Hernandez analyzed the reading scores and later graduation rates of 3,975 students born between 1979 and 1989 in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1979. He found 16 percent overall did not have a diploma by age 19, but students who struggled with reading in early elementary school grew up to comprise 88 percent of those who did not receive a diploma. That made low reading skills an even stronger predictor than spending at least a year in poverty, which affected 70 percent of the students who didn't graduate. In fact, 89 percent of students in poverty who did read on level by 3rd grade graduated on time, statistically no different from the students who never experienced poverty but did struggle with reading early on.
"By contrast, more than one in four poor, struggling readers did not graduate, compared with only 2 percent of good readers from wealthier backgrounds. Mr. Hernandez found that gaps in graduation rates among white, black and Hispanic students closed once poverty and reading proficiency were taken into account. "If they are proficient in reading, they basically have the same rate of graduation" above 90 percent, Mr. Hernandez said. "If they did not reach proficiency, that's when you see these big gaps emerge."