Can kids in Texas read? Strategic Framework takes a look

The “Can Kids in Texas read?” report is part of our blog series for Texas 2036’s Strategic Framework, which provides in-depth, cross-cutting data to inform key decisions about the most significant issues facing the state.

Can kids in Texas read? It is a simple question of profound importance to Texas parents, policymakers and taxpayers. As part of our Strategic Framework, we have included Third Grade Reading as a primary indicator of Texas’ success toward ensuring early literacy. In fact, it’s Goal No. 1 of our 36 goals for the future of Texas.

Why Third Grade Reading? 

We chose Third Grade Reading as a metric for a few reasons: 

  1. It is the first grade where children take the STAAR test, so it is a good measure of what learning happened during the earliest grades.  
  2. Third Grade is an inflection point in education. At this stage, children stop learning to read and begin to read to learn. According to the Reading Foundation, 74% of struggling readings will never catch up.  

So, can Texas students read? 

Too few Texas students can read in third grade. In the 2021-2022 school year, only 50% of third graders could read on grade level. This is highly concerning, when you look at the subpopulations in Texas, the data is even more concerning.  

Source: Texas 2036 Strategic Framework

While disaggregated data from 2021-2022 is still forthcoming, in the 2020-2021 school year, only 29% of Hispanic third graders were reading on grade level. For African American students, it was 27%.  

Source: Texas 2036 Strategic Framework

While the proficiency rates among minority groups is concerning, probably more concerning are the rates of low-income student reading proficiency. Of low-income third graders, 27% were on grade level. Why is this number even more concerning? Because this population is 60% of Texas students.  

In many ways, the educational success of our low-income third graders will determine our state’s trajectory for the next several decades.  There is much work to be done to improve reading scores, and the state has made significant strides in recent years. We must continue to hold the line on these reforms, such as House Bill 3’s Reading Academies,so that all children in Texas have the chance to read on grade level.