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(Forbes) — “Texas uses fourth grade reading scores to project the number of prison cells they’re going need 10 years later.” I first heard that astounding pronouncement in 1995 while co-chairing a White House task force on literacy.  And though I later learned that the formula for projecting the number of jail cells was more nuanced, it was not inaccurate.  Moreover, Texas wasn’t alone in using elementary school reading difficulties as a proxy for serious problems later in life.  60% of America’s prison inmates are illiterate; and 85% of all juvenile offenders have reading problems. Sadly, the percentage of criminals who have reading/illiteracy problems is not surprising.  What is shocking however, is how many kids are at risk of illiteracy.  Today, fully 67% of American fourth-graders can’t read at the fourth-grade proficiency level; and 33% score below the basic competency level.   (All these statistics are from the NAEP tests — the standardized tests given to all fourth-graders.)

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