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State superintendent celebrates reading gains among NC elementary students

A young person of color rests their hands on an open picture book.
Black Child Development Institute-Charlotte

State Superintendent Catherine Truitt presented the state board of education today with promising data on end-of-year diagnostic tests for kindergarten through third grade. She linked the results to statewide teacher training that emphasizes phonics.

"Overall, it's incredibly good news for all students in our state," Truitt told the board.

The Amplify tests track basic reading skills beginning in kindergarten, as opposed to end-of-grade exams that start in third grade and track reading comprehension. Between the beginning and end of the 2022-2023 school year, the share of North Carolina students who are on track in reading grew in all grades, according to the Amplify test data.

"You'll notice, first of all, that kindergarten first, second and third grade all outperformed the rest of the nation," Truitt said of North Carolina students' scores.

About 1.5 million students take the Amplify tests nationwide and about 450,000 North Carolina students took them last school year. Third graders tended to have slower gains nationally. They were in kindergarten when the pandemic started and often missed a year of in-person instruction.

Students who were in kindergarten and first grade last year were not in elementary school yet while many schools were engaged in remote learning.

North Carolina students of all races saw sizeable gains in reading scores.

"You can see that across all of these subgroups, we outperformed the rest of the nation except for Hispanic students where there was a one percentage point difference," Truitt says.

Spanish-speaking students took the exams in their native language.

The total share of North Carolina students who were at or above the benchmark for their grade in reading grew, and the share who were below the benchmark decreased.

Truitt tied the gains to the state's implementation of a statewide professional development training for teachers known as LETRS. The 160-hour training emphasizes instruction in phonics. A state law passed in 2021 required elementary teachers to take the training.

"Since our teachers have begun their incredible work on LETRS training. ... North Carolina continues to close gaps," Truitt said. "We're continuing to see improvement for all grade levels. We're continuing to see improvement across all subgroups."

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
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