Reading Scores*

Loading interactive model…


Average grade level performance for 3rd graders on English Language Arts standardized tests. The 2023 County Health Rankings used data from 2018 for this measure.

Reading Scores measures performance outcomes on reading tests for 3rd grade students in a county compared with the national average for 3rd graders. Many states implement standardized tests to measure the academic achievement of districts, schools, and students. Standardized test scores are often reported by state departments of education. The average academic performance of students in a given school district can be considered to reflect the total set of (both in- and out of-school) educational opportunities and resources available to children in that community.1 Reading scores at younger grades have been associated with high school graduation rates.2 In addition, students with lower than average reading achievement scores in 3rd grade have trouble closing the gap to read at grade level as they progress through the school system; this gap between these students and proficient readers grows each year.2-4 Thus, school achievement is a predictor of future academic outcomes.5 The literature indicates that strong academic performance at all grade levels is associated with better health outcomes such as life expectancy through increased educational opportunities, employment, and life satisfaction.2,6-9

Find strategies to address Reading Scores*

Data and methods

Data Source

Stanford Education Data Archive

Key Measure Methods

Reading Scores is an average

Reading Scores is the average grade level performance in the county for 3rd graders on English Language Arts standardized tests. For example, a score of 3.5 indicates that the 3rd graders are performing half a grade level better than expected for 3rd graders. 

Reading Scores is created using statistical modeling

Data come from the Stanford Education Data Archive program, which uses data from EDFacts and state sources; estimates are produced using complex statistical modeling. Using modeling allows the generation of more stable estimates for places with small populations or survey counts and for comparability across states. For more technical information on test score estimates please see their methodology: Fahle, E. M., Shear, B. R., Kalogrides, D., Reardon, S. F., DiSalvo, R., & Ho, A. D. (2017). Stanford Education Data Archive: Technical Documentation (Version 2.0). Retrieved from

Measure limitations

This measure is not available in all states. Please see our FAQ for more information about this.

Can This Measure Be Used to Track Progress


Finding More Data

Disaggregation means breaking data down into smaller, meaningful subgroups. Disaggregated data are often broken down by characteristics of people or where they live. Disaggregated data can reveal inequalities that are otherwise hidden. These data can be disaggregated by:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Subcounty Area

Using the Stanford Education Data Archive, data is available by grade level, gender, race, and school district. 


1 Fahle EM, Reardon SF. How much do test scores vary among school districts? New estimates using population data, 2009-2013. Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis Working paper No. 17-02.

2 Hernandez DJ. Double Jeopardy: How third-grade reading skills and poverty influence high school graduation. The Annie E. Casey Foundation. April 2011.

3 Fiester L. Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters. KIDS COUNT Special Report.

4 Juel C. Learning to read and write: A longitudinal study of 54 children from first through fourth grades. Journal of Educational Psychology 80(4), 437-447.

5 Jordan E, McKenzie SC, Ritter GW. Long-term outcomes of low-achieving third grade readers. Published: October 10, 2018.

6 French MT, Homer JF, Popovici I, Robins PK. What you do in high school matters: High school GPA, educational attainment, and labor market earnings as a young adult. Eastern Economics Journal. 2015; 41:370-386.

7 Kaplan RM, Spittel ML, Zeno TL. Educational Attainment and Life Expectancy. Policy Insights from Behavioral and Brain Science. 2014 October 1.

8 Kern ML, Friedman HS. Early Educational Milestones as Predictors of Lifelong Academic Achievement, Midlife Adjustment, and Longevity. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. 2009.

9 Ma J, Pender M, Welch M. Education pays 2016. The College Board. 2016.