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State Board Discusses Read to Achieve Data, Shows Minimal Impact on Student Reading Outcomes

Elizabeth Yelverton | NCASA Legal Affairs and Policy Manager 

Members of the State Board of Education heard several reports during its monthly meeting on Wednesday regarding the latest results from the State’s Read to Achieve program, which showed little to no improvement in the reading abilities of students participating in the program. Since its implementation in 2012, the state has spent $151.7 million on the program. Despite this significant investment, staff from the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and researchers from the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State University told Board members the program has yet to make any significant gains.

Read to Achieve was implemented as a part of the Excellent Public Schools Act, which directs the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to develop and implement a program enhancing the ability of third grade students to read at grade level. The program provides students who are not reading at grade level by the end of third grade with special assistance, including supplemental tutoring, optional participation in summer reading camps, and focused reading instruction during the next school year. As part of the Excellent Public Schools Act, DPI is required to submit an annual report on Read to Achieve results to the General Assembly by December 15 each year.

During his presentation to Board members, Trip Stallings, Director of Policy Research at the Friday Institute, noted the statewide impact of Read to Achieve is null on students both one year out of the program (2013-14) and two years out (2014-15). Further, Stallings noted there seemed to be a disconnect between the policies and implementation of Read to Achieve, as there appeared tobe “115 different pilots operating under a few common parameters.” Despite lackluster overall policy findings at the state level, Stallings pointed out the report did not acknowledge the positive impact of specific LEA and school-level interventions. The report also did not analyze the effects of the program on lowest-performing students.

Despite the consensus that there appears to be no significant gains from Read to Achieve, DPI did not recommend pursuing any legislative changes at this time. Instead, DPI recommended revisions in the implementation of the program, including more collaboration with Teacher Preparation Programs, greater support for LEAs with reading camp challenges, and enhanced focus on early interventions, instruction, and parent involvement.

Elizabeth Yelverton