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Proficiency in reading by third grade gaining better than national average

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(The Center Square) – Standardized early literacy assessment began in 2021-22, and North Carolina kindergarteners through third-graders have improved since.

DIBELS 8 is a set of measures “designed to evaluate component skills involved in reading,” a release from the state Department of Public Instruction says. The acronym is for Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills.

The gains in the state more than double the national average. North Carolina scores, however, remain below the national average.

Catherine Truitt, the Republican elected state superintendent in November 2020, said implementation of Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling – LETRS – alongside of DIBELS 8 is a big reason for the improvement.

“LETRS and DIBELS are both based on the science of reading, and the improvement in our benchmark scores are the result of North Carolina’s incredible teachers and students putting that science into practice,” Truitt said in the release. “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.”

The news comes while Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper pushes a narrative saying the “General Assembly is considering extreme legislation that would cripple our public education system” in his unofficially declared state of emergency for public education. In fact, the changes followed the Excellent Public Schools Act of 2021, a session law “to modify the implementation of the North Carolina Read to Achieve Program in order to attain statewide reading proficiency by third grade.”

Truitt’s release says by end of this semester, K-5 educators in 52 of the state’s 115 school districts will have completed LETRS training. The rest complete the task in the spring.

Amy Rhyne, director of the Office of Early Learning in the department, said more work remains. There are more than 18,000 students not proficient in reading by the end of the third grade, even though represents more than 9,300 less than 2021-22.

“We have much to celebrate,” Rhyne said in the release, “but we must also focus on supporting the children who have not quite caught up. 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.”

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