To help these students, we must fully understand just where this “fourth-grade slump” comes from. The “slump” was the name that the great reading researcher Jeanne Chall used to describe the apparently sudden drop-off between third and fourth grade in the reading scores of low-income students. In her research, Chall found that low-income students in the second and third grades tended to score at (and even above) national averages in reading tests and related measures such as spelling and word meaning. But at the fourth grade, low-income students’ scores began a steady drop that grew steeper as the students moved into the higher grades.1 (For a more detailed discussion of Chall’s landmark study, see “The Fourth-Grade Slump” on page 14.) I describe this drop-off as apparently sudden because there is now good evidence that it is there, unmeasured, in earlier grades. A large language gap—not just a reading gap—between advantaged and disadvantaged students exists also in third-grade, not to mention second, first, and even earlier.
Reading Comprehension Requires Knowledge - of Words and the World : Scientific Insights into the Fourth-Grade Slump and the Nation’s Stagnant Comprehension Scores