State joins national reading proficiency campaign

CHARLESTON – West Virginia plans to join a national initiative aimed at improving third-graders’ reading proficiency.

The Campaign for Grade Level Reading focuses on ensuring that children in low-income families are reading at grade level by the end of third grade.

The West Virginia Board of Education approved the state’s participation in the initiative on Wednesday, according to published reports.

West Virginia has literacy initiatives but education officials are not seeing the outcomes, Clayton Burch, assistant director for the Office of School Readiness at the Department of Education, told the board.

“This would actually take our work that we’re already doing and simply elevate it to a status where folks could actually join and say, ‘I’m a part of this movement,'” he said.

A recent West Virginia KIDS COUNT report found that seven in 10 children can’t read proficiently by the end of third grade. It said three-fourths of those children will remain poor readers throughout high school, and one in six won’t graduate.

“We know that one of the most important factors in student success is the ability to read,” Board of Education President Gayle Manchin said in a news release. “A 2011 study documented the impact of reading proficiency on staying in school. Ninety-six percent of students who were proficient in reading in third grade graduated from high school. Reading proficiency is also linked to student self-esteem and disciplinary action which indirectly shapes educational achievement.”

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s education goals include having all third-graders finish that year reading at grade level.

If the campaign approves West Virginia’s application, the state would join only two other states that implement the policy across all school districts statewide.

The Department of Education’s Advisory Committee on a Comprehensive Approach to Early Learning would coordinate West Virginia’s campaign efforts.