Those are just some of the findings in a new report from the Child Trends Hispanic Institute, which examined the progress Latino students made in reading from 2005 to 2015, using data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests.
Indeed, students who are still poor readers by the end of third grade are less likely to understand what is taught in later grades, the report notes. And reading achievement in fourth grade is a reasonably good predictor of high school graduation rates.
Despite the increase in scores from 2005 to 2015, only 21 percent of Latino fourth-graders reached the "proficient" level in reading in 2015. This compares to 46 percent of white students, and 35 percent of fourth-graders overall.
Those scores varied by state.
In 2015, the average score of fourth-grade students in Arkansas was 218. This was lower than the average score of 221 for public school students in the nation. This was not significantly different from their average score in 2013 (219) and was higher than their average score in 1998 (209).
The percentage of students in Arkansas who performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level was 32 percent in 2015. This percentage was not significantly different from that in 2013, 66 percent and was greater than that in 1998, 54 percent.
The findings are particularly troubling, the researchers note, because Hispanic students represent the single largest minority group. Today, 1 in 4 U.S. children is Hispanic, and by 2030 the proportion will be 1 in 3.
In 2015, Hispanic students had an average score that was 14 points lower than that for White students. Data are not reported for Hispanic students in 1998, because reporting standards were not met.
In 2015, female students in Arkansas had an average score that was higher than that for male students by 10 points. In 2015, students who were eligible for free/reduced-price school lunch, an indicator of low family income, had an average score that was 22 points lower than that for students who were not eligible. This performance gap was not significantly different from that in 1998, 25points.
Notably, Latino students themselves are a diverse student subgroup, representing several national origins, various family immigration statuses and amounts of time spent in the U.S., as well as location within the country.
To get a more holistic look at their achievement in reading, the researchers broke out the finding by country of origin, which is self-reported by students on the NAEP tests.
For more information, visit: nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard or www.childtrends.org/hispanic-institute