OUR POSITION: It was no surprise third-graders slipped a little when state education scores were released last week.

Everyone saw it coming.

The pandemic — and all the upheaval over virtual teaching — took its toll on education this past year. When Florida Standards Assessment test results for third graders in English language arts testing came out last week every county in our area saw a drop in scores. We will not be surprised if math scores, to be released later this month, are also down.

A score of level 3 is considered “satisfactory” on a scale of 1-5. Overall, English language arts scores in the state at level 3 or better decreased by 4% in the 2020-21 school year compared to 2019.

Locally, Sarasota County students were down 4 percentage points. Charlotte County students fell 7 percentage points, and DeSoto County students saw decline of 2 percentage points.

In Sarasota County 66% of students taking the test scored at level 3 or better, which is lower than the pre-pandemic tests, but above the state average of 54%.

Charlotte County School District’s rate of 62% scoring a level 3 or better dropped 7 percentage points from its pre-pandemic 2019 English Language Arts performance, but still higher than the state average.

While the three school districts had a majority of students back in class in 2021, the interruptions in 2020 took their toll, we’re sure.

But when it comes to reading proficiency, there are other places to point the finger besides the pandemic. Even in good years, when scores were better, we believe there is one key to students’ reading performance that is not always discussed.

Any parent unhappy with the latest scores should ask themselves one key question.

Do you read to your kids?

There was plenty of opportunity during the pandemic to sit down with your children and read to them and with them. If you didn’t, you missed a golden opportunity.

Vivian Washington, of the Michigan State University extension program, writes in an online article that it is never too early to begin reading to your children and there is never too much reading you can do. The success it fosters is proven.

Washington writes that “babies from the ages of 0 to 3 years old gain much of their language development during this time.” Babies and adolescents that young benefit from hearing the sounds of letters and pronunciation of words.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in 2014, recommended parent-child home reading beginning at birth and continuing at least through kindergarten.

Petit Early Learning Journey lists seven important steps to help your child become a better reader and to develop learning skills at an early age.

They include:

• Establish a reading routine. While bedtime storytelling is fine, perhaps a time earlier in the day when the child is more alert is good.

• Encourage your child to read on a regular basis.

• Find books the child enjoys.

• Find things to read besides books, even things like road signs, movie times in the newspaper or even cookbooks for recipes.

• Stay involved. Watch for progress and falling off of interest in reading.

• Never give up even if the child struggles.

• Remember, every child is different and progresses at different speeds.

So, if the reading scores concern you, these are tips that can not only help our educators with their challenge to develop good readers, but ideas that can help your child grow and make the most of educational opportunities.


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