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Most Montana Fourth Graders Not Reading Proficiently

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BELGRADE -

A new report finds sixty five percent of Montana's students aren't reading proficiently when they are heading into fourth grade.

But most Belgrade fourth graders' reading skills are right on par.

A KIDS COUNT report says 66 percent of fourth graders nationwide aren't reading at levels they should be in 2013.

In Montana, it's 65 percent, the same as the year before.

Montana KIDS COUNT researchers said kids who aren't readying at proficiency levels by fourth grade struggle to make it to high school graduation, meaning they'll get a lower income as adults.

The KIDS COUNT report said if this national trend continues, the majority of American workers will be unprepared for the workforce by 2020.

Belgrade Public Schools Superintendent Candy Lubansky said that shouldn't be a problem for Belgrade's fourth graders.

"Ninety-four percent of our students are either in the proficient or advanced range of reading so they are really ready going into the fourth grade," said Lubansky.

The KIDS COUNT report says the most noticeable gap is between higher and lower income students.

In Montana, 78 percent of low income fourth graders aren't reading at proficiency levels.

Nationally 80 percent of low income fourth graders aren't making the mark, that number is expected to grow.

Lubansky said they see largest gap between students who move to different schools more frequent and those that are in Belgrade Schools for just a few years.

"Our work with them has really been targeted and we are seeing gains in their proficiency, so if we are able to hold onto kids, we are able to see gains with them," said Lubansky.

She said she feels the best approach is looking at students' reading development early so they can work to improve reading scores from the beginning.

"When we see kids in those early, early grades, Kindergarten and first grade that we are working really closely with them" said Lubansky.

Lubansky says reading scores are important for Belgrade Schools; they've actually been studying their reading scores for about a year.

"The end result of that study was we purchased new reading materials that are really effective," said Lubansky.

Lubansky said teachers are starting to notice improvements in students reading.

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