Education

Want to boost NC reading achievement? Start earlier, invest more.

This week’s State Board of Education meeting brought disappointing news about how well North Carolina children are mastering reading.

The statewide report on North Carolina’s Read to Achieve program found more than 43 percent of third-graders tested during the 2017-18 school year did not demonstrate reading proficiency.

Certainly there were bright spots like Mooresville City Schools and Watauga County Schools where the pass-rate was roughly 72 percent. But in places like Edgecombe County Public School and Thomasville City Schools, the percentage of third graders not reading at-grade level exceeded 63 percent.

There are many things that can influence the test results. A retired teacher wrote earlier this week after our Monday numbers column to share that special education students or ESL learners can skew a district’s results.

But education experts are taking a look at the statewide data and asking is it time to rethink Senator Berger’s signature education program?

This weekend on NC Policy Watch’s News & Views, Rob Schofield sits down to discuss the findings with Matt Ellinwood, director of the Justice Center’s Education & Law Project.

Ellinwood discusses the need for investing more in North Carolina’s high-quality pre-K programs and providing greater resources to schools struggling to boost reading levels.

Click below for a preview of our radio interview with Ellinwood:

It’s also worth noting that state officials are not seeking legislative changes to Read to Achieve this session.

As education reporter Greg Childress explained this week, the state board instead has offered three recommendations to improve Read to Achieve outcomes:

The recommendations include providing greater financial and support to schools, identifying and “scaling up” reading programs that work and transitioning from a third-grade “social promotion mindset to a literacy development mindset.”

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