1. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, reading proficiency hasn't improved much nationwide over the past 20 years. But in South Carolina evidence of improvement has been somewhat more encouraging over the past decade:
|4th grade % Below Basic|
|4th Grade % Proficiency|
|4th Grade Scale Scores|
2. South Carolina has ranked in the bottom 10 states on 4th grade reading: On the NAEP reading test in 2009, South Carolina was tied for 39th with Alabama and Arkansas in the 4th grade and was 42nd in the 8th grade. The lowest scoring states are Louisiana, Mississippi, California, New Mexico, and Nevada. These states are similar to South Carolina in their high rates of poverty, low literacy, and minority populations.
3. Data from state tests for the percent deficient and for not proficient vary but generally show too many deficient readers and too few proficient: State test data over the past 30 years provide an ambiguous picture. Test scores in the first year of testing have always been discouraging but then become much better after several years of instructional alignment and practice in taking the test.
4. Five achievement gaps reveal troubling disparities in reading proficiency among students in South Carolina: race (minority vs. white), income (poor vs. non-poor), gender (boys vs girls), English language proficiency (non-English vs. English speakers), and state reading competitiveness (South Carolina vs United States).
Achievement gaps for race and income are a persistent dilemma in South Carolina. Twice as many African American and poor children score below basic than do whites and children who are not poor. Adding to the challenge is the fact that South Carolina has a much higher proportion of African American and poor children than the national average. The differences are large: for example, on NAEP 56% of African American children were Below Basic in 2009 as compared with 26% for whites; 51% of poor children were Below Basic as compared with 23% of children who were not poor. A smaller gender gap shows lower reading proficiency of boys than girls on all tests (e.g., 40% vs 36% Below Basic on NAEP Reading). Data is not available specifically for the previously small but rapidly growing number of immigrant English language learners in SC, but the gap for Hispanics on the 4th grade NAEP in 2009 was 47% Below Basic for Hispanic children as compared with 26% for non-Hispanic white children.
5. While some students come to school already reading or with knowledge and skills enabling them to become proficient readers quickly, many other children are quite unexposed to and unprepared in foundational literacy knowledge, skills, and interest. On the South Carolina Readiness Assessment, teachers rated one-quarter of kindergarten and 1st grade students as not consistently ready in reading and writing and one-third in their communication skills. The Stanford Reading First test in the fall of 1st grade determined that in high-poverty schools only 20% of students have reading skills at grade level while 54% need substantial intervention.
South Carolina Readiness Assessment 2008
|Grade||Reading (% not consistently ready)||Writing (% not consistently ready)||Communication (% not consistently ready)|
Stanford Reading First 2004-2008
|Grade||At Grade Level||Needs Substantial Intervention|
6. Children who are slow in becoming capable readers either or both:
DIAL Language at entry to 4K preschool (South Carolina children scored at national percentiles):
|At or below 5th percentile||19%|
|At or below 10th percentile||30%|
|At or below 25th percentile||50%|
Stanford Reading First Speaking Vocabulary in Fall of 1st grade (at risk schools 2004-2008):
|At grade level||37%|
|Needs additional intervention||22%|
|Needs substantial intervention||41%|
Stanford Reading First Phonemic Awareness (at risk schools in Fall of 2004-2008):
|1st grade||2nd grade||3rd grade|
|At grade level||56%||65%||78%|
|Needs additional intervention||11%||21%||15%|
|Needs substantial intervention||33%||14%||6%|
Stanford Reading First Phonics (at risk schools in Fall of 2004-2008):
|1st grade||2nd grade||3rd grade|
|At grade level||28%||9%||8%|
|Needs additional intervention||42%||35%||26%|
|Needs substantial intervention||30%||56%||66%|
7. Effectiveness of reading and literacy instruction varies widely across school districts, schools, and classrooms but could be improved substantially. In an evaluation of high poverty schools participating in South Carolina Reading First (SCRF), schools with high levels of implementation of the effective reading practices promoted in SCRF had significantly higher standardized test scores on Stanford Reading First than schools with lower levels of implementation of these reading practices.
8. Progress has been constrained by lack of a formal plan and funding for a statewide reading initiative that reaches all schools. Although South Carolina has never adopted a formal plan, the South Carolina Reading Initiative has developed processes and practices for enhancing reading instruction in classrooms across the state, though far from universally. SCRI has worked with more than 5,200 teachers and many other educators to build their knowledge and skills for effective reading instruction. This ambitious initiative has been funded for a decade with approximately $ 3 million per year of state funds and for 7 years with an average of $14 million per year of federal Reading First funds. Since Reading First funds are no longer available, support for promoting early reading proficiency has now fallen to an amount sufficient for very limited efforts at the state and district levels (i.e., only enough for a reading coach in 10% of elementary schools with no state or regional support).
Formulation of state policy for early reading proficiency, including but not limited to the components listed below.
Literacy development though Early Care and Education programs:
Family literacy: both parenting education and literacy promotion (comparable to health promotion of exercise and nutrition).
Schools Grow Readers: Building upon the oral language and print awareness which children bring from home, schools must provide learning experiences that produce proficient readers. Since too many young learners are not achieving proficiency in reading and writing, schools must transform their literacy instruction starting in preschool and kindergarten to increase early reading proficiency dramatically. School solutions are presented below:
Pre-school and kindergarten: building the foundation for reading through oral language and print-literacy skills.
Grades 1-3: quality reading instruction differentiated for each learner's needs:
Teacher training and coaching through professional literacy learning communities:
Evaluation-driven accountability monitoring for early reading proficiency and for content-area reading proficiency:
Legislative oversight through its Education Committees and the EOC:
Conclusion: there are at least 10 solutions that should receive policy and practice attention for increasing early reading proficiency:
For access to data and information on the reading tests cited in this report, see:
Contact Us with Your Comments:
This report on early reading proficiency has been prepared with funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. It is the first in a series of reports on the critical Challenges and Solutions for early reading proficiency. The report attempts to summarize data on reading proficiency in South Carolina and to offer a framework of Challenges and Solutions for discussion by all persons sharing the conviction that early reading proficiency is essential for academic achievement. Reading is such a complex phenomenon that neither this present document nor the others that follow will ever capture all the perspectives needed for guiding reading proficiency policy and practice. We strongly urge you to send your comments, criticisms, and suggestions to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Your involvement will enable us to incorporate your knowledge and advice into the consensus-building that the Early Reading Proficiency Project is seeking to nurture. Please become an active partner in our efforts to make universal reading proficiency a reality in South Carolina.
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