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Third Grade Reading

Reading is the foundational skill for all future learning, and being able to read by the end of third grade is a crucial milestone in a child’s future academic success.

Research shows that a child’s third grade reading level is a pretty strong predictor of how well a student performs in high school, whether or not they graduate, and if they go on to college.

Third Grade Reading is defined as the percentage of 3rd Graders who pass their language arts assessment with a rate of “proficient” or “highly proficient”.


ASU's Morrison Institute for Public Policy is the data steward for the Education Progress Meter. Data for these indicators was compiled and reviewed for validity.

Data sources and methodology for each of the Education Progress Meter metrics are listed below, with a brief introduction followed by a more in-depth description of the process for producing the final numbers. This is followed by a description of Census Bureau data and a brief look at potential issues with sample-based data.

Third Grade Reading

The percent of Arizona 3rd grade students who scored Proficient or Highly Proficient on the AzMERIT 3rd grade English language arts assessment.


Arizona Department of Education, 2018 AzMERIT results

Included in this number

Third grade students in district and charter schools in Arizona.

Not included in this number

  • Third grade students with significant cognitive disabilities.
  • Students in private schools.

In Brief

AzMERIT for 2018 data is downloaded from the Arizona Department of Education’s Accountability & Research website. County-level totals are filtered to show scores for the English Language Arts Grade three assessment. Students with scores in performance levels 3 and 4 (Proficient and Highly Proficient) are considered to have passed this assessment. The ADE report breaks down these scores by county and several demographic characteristics. To protect student privacy, ADE does not report cell counts that represent ten or fewer students. Also, to protect privacy, all cells of either zero or one percent are grouped together and reported as “<2.”

Detailed Methodology

This is a direct download from the Department of Education’s Accountability & Research website. Please see the section ‘School Geography’ for information on how geographies were determined for each school.

School Geography

To provide data to municipalities on local education conditions and trends, data that is usually released at the school or district level was converted to county and municipal level data. This process provides a picture of how the district and charter schools in an area are performing.

In Arizona, school district boundaries do not necessarily follow city and town boundaries and charter schools are free to locate wherever they please. Additionally, Arizona is an open-enrollment state, meaning that students can enroll in a school that is in a different town from where they reside, and there are an increasing number of online ‘virtual’ schools that may have an office in a certain city, but the students have no particular connection to the city. A final complication is that a school’s street address does not necessarily conform to the physical city in which it resides. For example, Marana High School is located within the Marana town limits. However, it has a Tucson street address even though the Tucson city limits are over 10 miles distant.

To resolve these conflicts, a shapefile containing the geography of 450 municipalities was downloaded from the US Census Bureau was imported into ArcGIS . This file contains the boundaries of 91 incorporated cities and towns in the state plus 359 Census Designated Places (CDP). These are recognized unincorporated population centers such as Sun City and Mayer.

From the National Center for Education Statistics the following was downloaded:

  • The name of all 2,414 district and charter school in Arizona.
  • Latitude and Longitude for each school location.
  • Location address of each school.
  • Unique State ID number for each school.
  • A flag indicating whether or not the school is a ‘virtual school.’

The latitude and longitude was used to map all schools in ArcGIS, and a spatial join was performed with the Census Bureau shapefile to determine the city, town, or CDP that each school is located in.

Schools identified as virtual schools by NCES were labeled as such and not assigned to any municipality. These 61 schools have a total enrollment of 13,180 students, according to the most recent NCES data.

One-hundred and two schools are located on unincorporated county land that is not in a CDP. These were individually examined assigned to a municipality based on the proximity of the school and district to neighboring areas.

2,334 schools were assigned to 212 municipalities across Arizona. These schools had a total enrollment of 1,090,450 in the 2015-16 school year according to NCES.

A small number of schools are listed as “Unallocated” in the data. Nineteen of these were in locations that did not fall in or adjacent to municipal boundaries. These represent rural schools that are remote from population centers as defined by the Census Bureau. An addition 52 schools found in the AzMERIT data are listed as Unallocated because they do not appear in the NCES list of schools in the state. It appears that these are recently opened schools that have yet to appear in the most recent data from NCES.



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