Education

Miami-Dade, Cuban students make strides in reading

Students at South Miami Heights Elementary look at books in May 2015. The books were donated by Molina Healthcare of Florida to encourage kids to read over summer vacation.
Students at South Miami Heights Elementary look at books in May 2015. The books were donated by Molina Healthcare of Florida to encourage kids to read over summer vacation. Peter Andrew Bosch

Hispanic students in Miami-Dade out-perform their peers in other urban districts when it comes to reading proficiency, scoring up to four grade-levels higher on national tests, according to a paper released Monday.

The paper also concluded that Cuban students nationally are making particular strides among Hispanics when it comes to reading proficiency as measured on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP.)

That’s all according to Child Trends, a research non-profit in Maryland that compared Hispanic student performance across the country.

Students in Miami-Dade performed the best among 21 urban districts that participated in NAEP testing in 2015. Florida’s Hispanic fourth-graders topped all other states, and eighth-grade students placed eighth.

“With a student body that includes over 75,000 English Language Learners, this particular accomplishment is a testament to the district’s singular focus on student achievement, the unwavering commitment of our teachers and leaders, the continuous support of our parents and the academic capacity of our students,” Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said in a statement.

In large cities across the country, scores for Cuban students in fourth and eighth grade jumped the equivalent of almost two and three grade levels, respectively, since 2005. That was more than any other Hispanic subgroup.

Overall, Child Trends found that Hispanic students have improved in reading proficiency by the equivalent of half a grade level in the past decade. But white non-Hispanic students still perform better, with 46 percent scoring proficient compared with only 21 percent of Hispanics in fourth grade.

“Reading is really fundamental to children doing well in school, especially if they’re not reading well by third- or fourth-grade,” said David Murphey, a co-author of the paper. “When children aren’t reading on grade level in the elementary years, it becomes harder for them to catch up with their peers.”

The study did not delve into why some districts and states do better than others. Factors such as poverty rates, acculturation and proficiency in the English language could be at play, as well as local education policies and teaching excellence. Florida, for example, has traditionally held-back third graders who fail state reading tests.

“It’s worth celebrating the recent progress, but it’s also worth delving deeper into understanding local policies as well as local demographics, and the role those may play in this story,” Murphey said.

Christina Veiga: 305-376-2029, @cveiga

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