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PRESS RELEASE – An Inside Look at North Carolina’s Read to Achieve Program

North Carolina’s student reading achievement has dramatically increased since the enactment of the state’s Read to Achieve (RtA) Program in 2012. Today, the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) released a first-of-its-kind study on RtA, exploring the program’s successes through the insights of local stakeholders and examining ways to build upon these gains.

North Carolina Read to Achieve: An Inside Look examines RtA — the K-3 comprehensive reading policy designed to get all North Carolina students reading on grade level by the end of third grade — using data collected from more than 200 North Carolina educators and education leaders.

“The ability to read opens doors and opportunities every child deserves. For nearly four years, North Carolina’s leaders and educators have used Read to Achieve to equip more students with this life-changing skill,” said Patricia Levesque, ExcelinEd CEO. “The state is taking great strides toward giving all students the foundational reading skills needed to learn, graduate and succeed.”

“While there is still much to be done, these encouraging results show the Read to Achieve program is working in North Carolina,” said N.C. Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), who sponsored the 2012 law. “I commend the hard work of our students and the efforts of parents, educators and public officials working together to equip them with fundamental reading skills and ensure they are on a path to life-long success.”

Key findings include:

  • Since 2011, the state’s fourth graders improved half a grade level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading section, with student proficiency increasing by 4 percentage points and the percentage of students scoring below basic decreasing by 5 points.
  • 84 percent of teachers agreed that their knowledge of and skill in using reading assessments to drive instruction increased as a result of RtA.
  • 80 percent of teachers agreed that professional development under RtA improved their knowledge of research-based reading instruction.
  • 72 percent of teachers reported an increase in learning time for struggling readers to get the help they needed to be successful.
  • Nearly 75 percent of teachers reported their schools have increased efforts to engage parents.

The study finds that, overall, perceptions of Read to Achieve are very positive. Professional development and on-the-ground technical assistance under the program are helping district literacy leaders and teachers improve instruction. Teachers and leaders are boosting communication and engagement with families to get children the assistance they require. And they are identifying struggling readers early, ensuring students receive the intensive interventions they need to help them move forward.

Read the complete study, North Carolina Read to Achieve: An Inside Look, online.


About Read to Achieve

Learning to read by the end of third grade is the gateway to lifelong success. When students are not able to read by the end of third grade, their risk of falling behind grows exponentially. Recognizing this fact, in 2012, the North Carolina General Assembly established the Read to Achieve Program (RtA). RtA is a K-3 comprehensive reading policy that focuses on improving early reading development with the goal of all students reading on grade level by the end of third grade. The law:

  • Mandates early literacy screening for K-3 students.
  • Requires that parents of K-3 students identified with a reading deficiency be notified, and ensures that intensive reading interventions are provided until the deficiency is remedied.
  • Mandates that summer reading camps be provided to students with a reading deficiency at the end of third grade.
  • Ends social promotion of third graders who do not demonstrate sufficient reading ability. (The law also includes good cause exemptions recognizing the special needs of some students.)

About the Study

North Carolina Read to Achieve: An Inside Look was prepared by RMC Research Corporation. Data sources included:

  • Face-to-face interview with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Director of K-3 Literacy;
  • Focus group of eight DPI regional consultants;
  • Telephone interviews with seven literacy leaders in four districts; and
  • Online survey of 216 K-3 teachers in four districts.