Elementary Reading Scores

The Problem:

The Cost of Low Reading Scores:

  • A 3rd grade student who reads below grade level and lives in poverty is 13 times more likely to drop out of high school than a student reading on grade level.

  • High school dropouts are 8 times more likely to be incarcerated than high school graduates. Nationally, 70% of jail inmates have not completed high school, and half of inmates with a GED earn it while incarcerated. In the Richmond City Jail, 15,000 men and 2,000 women enrolled in high school level classes in 2013.

  • Over the course of his or her lifetime, a single high school dropout costs the nation approximately $260,000 in lost 

  • earnings, taxes, and public welfare costs. A single high school dropout who is incarcerated at any point in life costs the nation $800,000.

  • The average cost to house a person in the Richmond City Jail for a year is $24,308, while the cost to  attend VCU for a year, including room and board, is $20,307. Over the course of 4 years, incarceration costs $16,000 more than college education.

Reading in Henrico County:

  • 9 Henrico County elementary schools remain unaccredited in reading — all of them are in the East End, and two of those schools showed no improvement in 2017.

  • 5,754 3rd through 8th graders failed their state reading tests in 2016-2017

  • In 3rd through 8th grade, 34% of students in Eastern Henrico failed compared to 14% in Western Henrico.

Reading in Richmond City:

  • In Richmond Public Schools, 42% of students failed reading last year. 

  • In grades K-12, over 10,500 children fail to read on grade level across the district, according to the Virginia Dept. of Education.

​Our Progress:

RISC leaders have sought a proven reading curriculum for unaccredited schools where more than 25% of students fail reading since 2014. The Direct Instruction curriculum (also known as SRA Reading Mastery & Corrective Reading) has a 40-year track record of teaching students from all backgrounds to read on grade level.

School districts around Virginia are implementing SRA Reading Mastery and the program is turning their reading levels around. In Buckingham County, VA 3rd grade reading scores increased by 58% in 2 years during a former implementation in 2009-2012! This year, Culpeper County, Lancaster County, and Buckingham County Schools are all using Reading Mastery and are seeing positive results.

Following extensive research, consultation of experts, and visits to schools successfully using Direct Instruction, RISC leaders believe this program will provide teachers with best practices to meet the needs of all students.HCPS recently reported successes using this program as an intervention after students fail reading – RISC leaders ask that students are taught with this powerful, proven, interactive tool from the start. 

Progress in Richmond Public Schools:

In February 2017, Richmond’s 6th district leadership approached RISC to work on a Direct Instruction pilot program in unaccredited Richmond schools. Recognizing the urgency of providing proven tools for students in low-performing schools, Richmond City Council and School Board representatives met with Direct Instruction experts and visited City Springs School in Baltimore to see the program in action.

At our 2018 Nehemiah Action Assembly, Mr. Kamras, the Superintendent of Richmond Public Schools, attended and we asked him to make commitments to address this serious problem of reading in Richmond Public Schools. We asked for his leadership to implement a pilot of Reading Mastery in 2 schools, ensuring that resources and support are made available to the schools, where the pilot will be conducted.

Because we stood up, we got clear commitments to next steps at the Nehemiah Action.

On Thursday, June 7th, 10 of us met with the new Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Epp. We can report that RPS is taking steps toward piloting the proven program Reading Mastery in the Fall of 2018!

We will continue to follow-up over the summer—to make sure schools are identified and the pilot receives approval of the Dept. of Education. We are encouraged and excited that soon, classrooms in our city will be filled with children learning to read to grade level!


 *Statistics provided by the Virginia Department of Education, Henrico County Public Schools, Education Week, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Richmond Sheriff’s Office, Alliance for Excellent Education, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Compensation Board of the Virginia General Assembly, and City Springs School.

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