There are a lot of kids who are doomed to perform poorly in school. You know some of the types: creative artists types who will never understand algebra. Insanely self-directed types who become obsessed with one topic and forget to do all their other homework. All the time. But here’s another type you might not know: kids who are behind in reading by third grade.
It’s been known for a long time that third grade is a make-or-break year for students. An educator in Time magazine suggested that since it’s so clear that kids who are poor readers in third grade will do poorly in school, we should just hold back every kid reading below grade level.
Of course we wouldn’t do that. It would be too expensive for the public school system, and also, there would have to be a new, non-linear way to talk about learning so that kids did not feel stigmatized, and school is inherently linear and competitive, so holding kids back would kill their self-esteem.
Which means that kids reading below grade-level in third grade are doomed. It’s mostly boys, of course. Because we start teaching boys to read (and to sit still or else!) before they are ready. And then we have to medicate them. And since a high percentage of boys are not medicated for ADHD but show symptoms of it while they try to cope, boys are behind in reading in third grade.
My brother was behind. In second grade my grandma noticed that my brother had no idea how to read. He was so good at math that the teacher would just give him more math during reading time. So my grandma taught my brother to read in between second and third grade.
Which is part of the research about third-graders, by the way. The rich kids do well and the poor kids don’t. My parents were both working at big jobs and oblivious to my brother. My grandma had a master’s degree in education and could spot a bad reader a mile away. That’s what it’s like to be a rich third grader: a grandma with a master’s degree.
If your kid is behind in third grade, take the kid out of school. There is strong evidence that where your kid stands in third grade is where your kid will be unless you intervene.
This data reminds me of the research that shows that the salary you are making at 40 will be the top of your earnings for the rest of your life. People hate that data because they don’t want it to be true, so they keep managing their life as if it’s not true. And I think people do the same with their third graders.