West Virginia Makes Significant Progress In Closing 3rd Grade Literacy Achievement Gap

August 11, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia has made positive strides in addressing student achievement in literacy according to the Early Learning Annual Report released this week by State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano.

The report details several national accolades regarding West Virginia’s comprehensive approach to early learning.

“In reflecting on our work surrounding early childhood literacy, this report solidifies that West Virginia is moving in the right direction,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano. “We know that closing the literacy achievement gap by the end of third grade will increase opportunities for all West Virginia students to graduate high school with the skills needed to enter the world college and career ready. The work to support the success of all West Virginia students starts with policies that impact children from birth through third grade.”

Among the successes outlined, West Virginia’s longstanding commitment to early learning efforts is evident across early learning programs; specifically, the state is one of a few states in the nation with free, full-day, five-day kindergarten for all children and voluntary universal pre-K to all four- year-old children. The state’s Universal pre-K program ranks fifth in the nation with regard to the provision of access to high-quality pre-K services for the state’s 4-year-olds.

West Virginia also leads the nation in developing children’s literacy skills according to a recent study released by New America’s Education Policy Program. The report, “From Crawling to Walking: Ranking States on Birth-Third Grade Policies that Support Strong Readers,” ranks West Virginia as one of five states identified as “walking” or making solid strides toward comprehensive birth to third grade policy.

West Virginia’s Universal pre-K system recently joined an elite group of 5 other states that meet all 10 benchmarks for high-quality pre-K programming, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research 2015 State of Preschool Yearbook. The 10th and final benchmark to be met by West Virginia is the Early Childhood Classroom Teacher Assistant Credential, which ensures pre-K and kindergarten classroom assistant teachers have specialized training focusing on early childhood education.

The U.S. Department of Education report, “Credentialing in the Early Care and Education,” highlights the work of West Virginia to show how states’ existing credentialing systems could be used to support career pathways efforts. Chief Academic Officer at the West Virginia Department of Education, Clayton Burch, served as one of six key experts in the nation who advised the development of this report.

“Our goal is to ensure the success of all young children in West Virginia,” Burch said. “Growing literate, competent children today will result in positive impacts on career and college readiness tomorrow. The success hinges on a comprehensive, long-term strategic commitment to early learning birth through third grade which gained traction and attention by having Governor Earl Ray Tomblin as a champion for third grade reading.”

Burch also participated in a national think tank as one of 12 early learning experts at a recent meeting of The Education Commission of the States to examine current approaches to pre-K through Grade Three systems.

The noteworthy work on literacy development has proven successful as West Virginia’s fourth-grade scores in Reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have increased six national rankings from 2013-2015, increasing from 47th to 41st in the nation.

For additional information, contact Kristin Anderson at the West Virginia Department of Education Office of Communications at 304-558-2699 or Kristin.Anderson@k12.wv.us.

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