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Trends and Gaps in Reading Achievement across Kindergarten and Grade 1 in Two Illinois School Districts

Region:
Midwest
Description:

To assess educational progress in the early grades and identify achievement gaps, the Midwest Early Childhood Education Research Alliance examined reading achievement data among students in kindergarten and grade 1 in two districts in Illinois. The study documents overall reading achievement in these and examines disparities in achievement among groups defined by race/ethnicity, eligibility for the national school lunch program, English learner status, participation in special education, and gender. District administrators, policymakers, and educators can use the findings to make decisions about allocating resources to students and schools. This study analyzed student records and assessment data from two cohorts of kindergarten and grade 1 students—one from Elgin Area Schools (District U–46) and one from Springfield Public Schools (District 186). District U–46 used the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System—a formative reading assessment administered by teachers—to assess the reading proficiency of kindergarten and grade 1 students. District 186 used the Measures of Academic Progress for Primary Grades assessment, an adaptive assessment that is appropriate for universal screening and growth measurement of students’ reading. The study team performed separate analyses for both districts given a discrete, categorical outcome variable for District U–46 and a continuous outcome variable for District 186. The study found that reading achievement increased across the kindergarten and grade 1 years for all students. However, there were differences in reading achievement across student demographic groups. In both districts, Asian and White students had higher achievement than Black and Hispanic students, and students not eligible for the national school lunch program and students not in special education had higher achievement than students with this eligibility and this status. In District U–46, non-English learner students had higher achievement levels than English learner students. In District 186, female students started kindergarten and ended grade 1 with slightly higher levels of reading achievement than male students. District administrators, policy makers, and educators can use these findings to make decisions about allocating resources—such as professional development, literacy coaches, or books—to schools that serve larger concentrations of Black or Hispanic students, students eligible for the national school lunch program, students in special education, or English learner students. Examining achievement patterns by student demographic group is an important first step in identifying whether districts or schools need to distribute resources or opportunities differently to achieve more equitable outcomes across student demographic groups. District administrators, policy makers, and educators can use the results to motivate conversations about the root causes of inequities and how to resolve them. To determine which students should receive more intensive reading interventions, however, educators should use universal screening assessments and ongoing progress monitoring, rather than group membership.

Publication Type:
Descriptive Study
Online Availability:
Publication Date:
February 2021