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Raimondo Sets Strategic Reading Goal

Three out of four third graders will read at grade level by 2025; third-grade reading goal first in a series of strategic goals to be announced before the end of the year

PAWTUCKET, R.I. - Citing a series of initiatives and programs focused on helping children develop the skills they need to succeed during the first eight years of life, Governor Gina M. Raimondo committed Rhode Island to achieving an ambitious goal today to ensure that three out of four third graders score proficient or higher in reading by 2025, the year most children born this year will complete third grade.

"When I see that just over a third of our third graders are reading on grade level, I'm disappointed, frustrated and I'm impatient. Study after study shows that the number one indicator of high school graduation and future success is a child's ability to read on grade level by third grade," said Governor Raimondo. "Today, I'm drawing a line in the sand and setting a clear goal for Rhode Island: By 2025, when the kids who were born this year reach third grade, three out of four will be reading at grade level."

According to the Rhode Island Kids Count 2016 Factbook, reading proficiently by the end of third grade is a crucial marker in a child's educational development and is a leading indicator of high school graduation. Students who do not read at grade level are four times more likely to drop out of high school before earning a degree than those who do. In 2015, 37 percent of Rhode Island third graders scored proficient or higher on the PARCC English language arts assessment, which is slightly higher than the national average of 35 percent.

"Rhode Island's education and economic goals absolutely depend on closing the achievement gap in third-grade reading and equipping all children to be successful in later grades, college, and careers," Rhode Island KIDS COUNT Executive Director Elizabeth Burke Bryant said. "We are very pleased that the Governor has today set critical, ambitious goals for third-grade reading proficiency and that she is focusing on all we need to be doing from birth through third grade in order to move the needle. As part of the Rhode Island Campaign for Grade-Level Reading we look forward to working with community partners to achieve this goal."

Since taking office, Governor Raimondo has taken proactive steps to support programs, initiatives and investments designed to help young children develop early reading skills that position them for success, including efforts that:

Reconvened the Children's Cabinet for the first time in eight years and directed Health and Human Services Secretary Elizabeth Roberts and K-12 Education Commissioner Ken Wagner to develop a strategic plan that expands access to high-quality early learning and developmental programs;

Expanded and improved the quality of Rhode Island's Pre-K programs, putting Rhode Island on track to triple the number of four-year-olds enrolled in Pre-K by 2018;

Expanded all-day kindergarten to every community in the state and developed tools to help school districts provide kindergarten professional development opportunities;

Passed and signed the Home Visiting Act to help connect new parents - particularly low-income parents - with evidence-based supports and services that lead to improved language, cognitive and social and emotional development; and

Improved the quality of childcare for low-income families by offering childcare workers meaningful educational incentives.

"If we are to ensure that all students read at grade level by the end of 3rd grade, we need to start early, partner with families and communities, and provide comprehensive and coordinated supports, including high-quality early learning programs," Education Commissioner Ken Wagner said. "Reading starts in the family, continues in the community, and establishes itself as a lifetime skill in the school. Governor Raimondo's goal is ambitious, but great things follow high expectations - for ourselves and our children."

"I commend Governor Raimondo for setting this ambitious, achievable goal," said Children's Cabinet Co-Chair and Health and Human Services Secretary Elizabeth Roberts. "Ensuring access to high-quality early learning supports for all Rhode Island children will help set them on a path of opportunity and improved outcomes throughout their lives. Since education affects health and well-being in a big way, this goal also supports our efforts to ensure all Rhode Islanders have equal opportunities for good health, no matter their zip code."

The Governor made the announcement today at Varier Elementary School in Pawtucket. Over 60 percent of Varier third graders met reading level expectations last year, up 17 percentage points compared to the year before.

"On behalf of the students and teachers in Pawtucket, we are pleased that Governor Raimondo has set ambitious goals for attaining reading proficiency by the end of grade 3," Pawtucket Schools Superintendent Patti DiCenso said. "We have made improvements across the board in elementary-school reading scores, but we know we have a long way to go. We are learning from the success at Varieur and at other schools, and we will strive to meet the goals that Governor Raimondo has announced today."

"At Varieur, we're proud of the progress we have made in improving reading scores across the entire school - up by 17 points, to 61 percent proficient," Varieur School Principal Mary Murray said. "This achievement is thanks to the hard work of our teachers, our families, and most of all our students. Thank you all for your commitment to teaching and learning!"

Progress on the third-grade reading strategic goal and success of the initiatives which support the goal will be tracked regularly by the Governor's Performance Management team. In addition to this goal, Governor Raimondo will unveil strategic goals later this month related to secondary and higher education.

"The difference between a dream and a goal is a deadline. Today, we're setting a clear, bold goal. And we'll set more in the weeks ahead," Raimondo said. "I recognize that this is different from the way government in this state has typically worked. We're going to hold ourselves - and our colleagues - accountable. Achieving this goal and the other goals we set will require teamwork and partnership across government and with other community organizations."

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