According to education researchers, third grade is a magic year. That’s when children move from decoding words via their knowledge of the alphabet to really synthesizing and understanding what those words mean when they’re all put together. And the effects are long lasting — students who have a hard time reading in third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. According to recent tests, more than a third of Baltimore City third graders aren’t proficient at reading. So what’s to be done?
Well, plenty of things — more than we have the space to discuss here. But one of the simplest (and potentially most effective) was Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s recent announcement that city officials could take up to two hours of paid (!) time off per week to tutor city students in reading skills. This kind of one-on-one tutoring has been shown to be an effective intervention for struggling students.
So far, the paid-time-off-for-tutoring plan only applies to full-time Baltimore City employees who get approval from their supervisors (and who pass a background check). We’d love to see the program extended to other local employers in the private sector. After all, two hours a week may not seem like much — but the hours add up, and could mean a fundamental change in a generation of Baltimore City students.