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    letters | test scores raise concern — and debate

    Target achievement gaps early, before they take root

    The Nov. 15 editorial “Fourth-grade test scores sound a warning bell” highlights the Commonwealth’s dismal performance in fourth-grade reading and raises questions about likely causes of the problem. While the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress rankings show Massachusetts as achieving top scores among all states, a startling 53 percent of Massachusetts fourth graders scored below proficient in reading.

    Achievement gaps and the developmental foundation for literacy and learning take root in early childhood, long before children enter school. A new study by Stanford researchers identified an early language gap for toddlers at 18 months. The gap grows wider by age 2, putting children on two different learning pathways that influence their chances of success in school and beyond.

    As interim superintendent of the Wrentham Public Schools, I know that schools cannot meet this challenge alone. Expecting elementary schools to see that every child is caught up isn’t realistic or cost-effective.


    We will not succeed in closing these gaps until we target resources to early learning. These investments pay off for children, families, and communities in the short and long term.

    Christopher Martes


    The writer is former president and executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents.