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Beginning-of-Year Reading Assessment Shows Growth for Early Grades Students

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Beginning-of-Year Reading Assessment Shows Growth for Early Grades Students

North Carolina’s investment in early literacy is paying off.

New data presented today to the State Board of Education shows that elementary school students continue to make significant improvements in their reading skills.

Based on beginning-of-year testing data, North Carolina students outpaced their peers on a national level in grades 1-3, while grades K-3 have shown steady improvement since the implementation of a standardized early literacy assessment in the 2021-22 school year.

The assessment – DIBELS 8 (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) – consists of a set of measures designed to evaluate component skills involved in reading.

In the two years since its implementation, North Carolina’s first, second and third graders have made gains that are more than double those seen on the national level.

Despite having lower scores compared to the national average during that same timeframe, North Carolina kindergarteners have shown greater improvement than their peers across the country, with a growth rate of 6% versus 4% on the national level.

And in the year-end assessment for 2022-23, the percentage of kindergarten students who measured “on track” more than doubled – surpassing the national average.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt said the positive trends are a credit to the Department of Public Instruction’s implementation of the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling, or LETRS.

LETRS, which began rolling out the same year as the DIBELS 8 assessment, is a two-year professional development program that equips K-3 teachers with instructional tools based on decades of literacy research.

“LETRS and DIBELS are both based on the science of reading, and the improvements in our benchmark scores are the result of North Carolina’s incredible teachers and students putting that science into practice,” Truitt said. “The fact that we continually see a steady increase in reading proficiency before the LETRS initiative is even fully implemented is astounding. This shows that when we invest in research-based professional development for North Carolina teachers, they produce results.”

Literacy Data Chart

By the end of the fall semester, K-5 educators in 52 school districts will have completed their LETRS training, with the remaining districts set to wrap up this spring.

Compared to 2021-22, 9,308 fewer students received a label of “reading retained” based on their DIBELS scores this year. Students are considered “reading retained” if they are not proficient in reading by the end of third grade.

But Amy Rhyne, director of the Office of Early Learning at the Department of Public Instruction, said the 18,413 students receiving that designation this year are proof that there is still work to do.

Achievement gaps also persist among Black, Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native children and their white and Asian peers. While scores have been steadily rising for all subgroups, 12% more Black students received scores that identify them as needing intensive intervention than their white peers.

The disparity is even greater for Hispanic students, 18%, and American Indian/Alaska Native students, 22%.

“We have much to celebrate, but we must also focus on supporting the children who have not quite caught up,” Rhyne said. “With the LETRS learning approaching full implementation and as teachers continue to differentiate their instruction based on individual student needs, we expect these numbers to keep improving.”


Source: NC Department of Public Instruction