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ERN CT: New Report Lays Out Solutions to Address Connecticut’s Literacy Woes


DATE: 09/02/2020

CONTACT: Amy Dowell |

New Report Lays Out Solutions to Address Connecticut’s Literacy Woes

Barely Half of All Connecticut Third and Fourth-Graders Are Meeting Reading Expectations

Sept. 2, 2020 — As students across Connecticut begin returning to school, Education Reform Now CT has released a new report on a problem many local parents may not be aware of: our state’s ongoing literacy crisis. Reading and writing are the cornerstones of a good education, and yet barely half of all third- and fourth-graders in Connecticut are currently meeting reading expectations. The new report details the problem—including which students and families are being impacted— and lays out specific, data-driven solutions.

The full report, “Steady Habits, Stagnant Results: CT Solutions for Equity & Excellence in Literacy” can be found here.

The report details the extent of the state’s literacy problems. Across Connecticut, about 53% of all third graders are currently meeting grade-level expectations for English Language Arts (ELA), while about 42% of all fourth graders meet proficiency standards in reading.

Worse, these scores aren’t improving: Connecticut’s Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test results remained stagnant, with only a 0.7% increase between 2015 and 2019, while the National Assessment of Educational Progress test showed scores decreased by 3.4 percentage points during the same period.

In an op-ed in today’s Hartford Courant, ERN CT State Director Amy Dowell noted, “For a state with Connecticut’s resources, reputation for great schools, and one of the best-educated workforces, our literacy struggles should be an embarrassing wake-up call. It doesn’t have to be this way, and we know what works. A state-led literacy effort, implemented with fidelity, will make Connecticut students more successful, more secure, and poised to lead our economy.”

Dowell points to the “CT K-3 Literacy Initiative” (CK3LI) pilot program as a promising way to address these issues in Connecticut. CK3LI was developed by the General Assembly’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus and is based on best practices in early literacy instruction.

A 2016 review of the pilot showed that schools that had participated had more than doubled the number of students meeting grade-level goals for literacy, and the number of students at risk for reading failure shrank by more than half in these schools.

The study from ERN CT calls for specific steps to build on this work, including:

  1. Committing to long-term state investments for expanding the CK3LI literacy initiative, particularly for the higher-need Alliance Districts;

  2. Establishing a center at the Department of Education to coordinate a statewide K-12, higher education and professional development strategy;

  3. Requiring Alliance District grant funds to be used within the targeted districts to fund their participation in CK3LI;

  4. Adopting a Connecticut model curriculum for literacy; and

  5. Requiring all public school districts to report each year on which literacy curricula they are employing in classrooms, creating transparency for families and leaders.

Connecticut’s literacy problems will also have drastic implications for the state’s workforce needs in the years ahead. Said Dowell, “Students who don’t learn basic reading skills required to think critically and compete at an early age will not be prepared to finish college-level work or join a demanding workforce. The state’s recent workforce efforts and announcements will be for naught if Connecticut’s underlying literacy problems are not addressed.”


About Education Reform Now CT

The state chapter of a national organization, Education Reform Now CT is a 501(c)(3) that operates as a think tank and policy advocate, promoting great educational opportunities and achievement for all by increasing equity, protecting civil rights, and strengthening the social safety net.


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