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NAACP Supports Every Child Reading by the First Grade, Mastery by the Third Grade

WHEREAS, educators and researchers have long recognized the importance of mastering reading early on in a child's education; and

WHEREAS, even though most studies and research concentrations have been focused on reading literacy by the third grade, it is apparent that the process for reading proficiency should begin much earlier and be satisfied by the end of the first grade in order to avoid the pitfalls associated with failure to achieve reading proficiency; and

WHEREAS, research has shown that children start developing the cognitive visual skills to identify the complex shapes of letters from as early as age two. With proper support, children can read their first words by age three and some can read simple sentences by age four. Almost all children can learn the alphabet and to read a few words before age six; and

WHEREAS, the current trend is to hold back third graders who fail standardized reading tests, a method which has been proven mostly unsuccessful, ineffective and problematic from a budgetary standpoint and a dropout prevention measure; and

WHEREAS, under a tough policy adopted in Chicago in 1999, students held back in elementary school suffered lower rates of learning and a developmental mismatch with younger students in their class, according to the University of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research. Some entered high school at 16 years old, instead of 14, and were more likely to drop out; and

WHEREAS, embracing and mandating reading literacy by the end of the first grade would allow for early identification of at-risk students during the prime of their developmental and cognitive years, thus enabling more successful diagnostic and intervention approaches such as tutoring, extra support and summer school to reduce the tendency for repeating grades in later years and possibly dropping out before graduation; and

WHEREAS, reading proficiency by the end of first grade would provide (1) a much needed confidence booster, (2) a reduction in academic and behavior problems in general education classes, (3) a decrease in the number of unnecessary referrals to special education, and would (4) build a stronger foundation for the educational skill set needed to assure graduation.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP opposes current trending policies that hold back students in the third grade who fail standardized tests in reading, math, etc; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP advocates for reading proficiency by the end of the first grade in an effort to promote early literacy building interventions in pre-K through third grade that would make retention unnecessary; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP Education Department will assemble a basic set of tools and training modules available to NAACP units to implement this crucial policy.