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MCAS rut points to need for early education

September 15, 2011

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RE “MCAS results paint mixed picture’’ (Page A1, Sept. 9): It is disappointing, but not surprising, that the latest MCAS results show scant progress on third-grade reading after a decade of effort. That 39 percent of third-graders read below grade level bodes poorly if we hope to make progress toward improved educational outcomes for older children.

The solution to this problem must start long before children enter kindergarten. Reading skills are built on the foundation of early language, social, and emotional development. Children who experience language-enriched environments and nurturing relationships in the first few years of life are much more likely to achieve literacy by third grade.

Research on the effectiveness of high-quality early education is so compelling that I stress the robust findings with the pediatric resident physicians I help train. If we are to help children become strong readers, reduce the need for costly remediation, and ensure a bright future for children, we must focus on the early-childhood experience. An Act Relative to Third Grade Reading Proficiency, now pending on Beacon Hill, which focuses on language development and early literacy, presents an opportunity to do just that.

Dr. Gregory Hagan

The writer is president of the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.