Wake Ed

Ad promotes literacy as Wake County school board campaign issue

An indecipherable sign put up by the Bootstraps PAC catches the eye among a cluster of local campaign signs on Hwy. 54 outbound at Meadowmont in Chapel Hill, NC, on Oct. 24, 2013. The sign invites the reader to scan the lower right corner which leads to a website about childhood illiteracy in NC. Bootstraps is now running radio ads about how nearly half of Wake County’s current high school seniors didn’t pass the eighth-grade state reading exam in 2013.
An indecipherable sign put up by the Bootstraps PAC catches the eye among a cluster of local campaign signs on Hwy. 54 outbound at Meadowmont in Chapel Hill, NC, on Oct. 24, 2013. The sign invites the reader to scan the lower right corner which leads to a website about childhood illiteracy in NC. Bootstraps is now running radio ads about how nearly half of Wake County’s current high school seniors didn’t pass the eighth-grade state reading exam in 2013.

A new political ad cites low reading scores by Wake County high school seniors to urge voters to support school board candidates who make literacy a key goal.

The new 60-second radio commercial from the Boostraps PAC, a non-partisan political action committee that focuses on childhood illiteracy, says nearly half of current Wake high school seniors failed the state’s end-of-grade reading exam when they were in eighth grade. The ad goes on to note how probably 85 percent of Wake’s seniors will graduate from high school in June.

“So have they caught up that much?” Bootstraps says in the ad that began running Monday on WRAL-FM. “Where do all those kids who couldn’t read in 8th grade go after high school? How are they going to succeed in life without the basic skill of knowing how to read?”

Bootstraps tells the ad’s listeners they can help by supporting school board candidates, volunteering in schools to tutor children who need reading help and by donating money to literacy non-profit groups. The PAC isn’t endorsing any specific Wake County school board candidates, but several have made literacy an issue.

The group is pulling its data from the 2012-13 school year, when North Carolina first began testing students under the Common Core reading and math standards. Passing rates on state exams plummeted that year with state education officials contending it was due to the much higher standards now being used in schools.

In the 2012-13 school year, the passing rate on the end-of-grade reading test for eighth-grade students was 41 percent statewide and 50.2 percent in Wake County.

After the first year of the new tests, the State Board of Education revised the scale to make the exams easier to pass.

Bootstraps first came to public notice in fall 2013 when it placed signs along Triangle roadways using random groups of letters to show how it feels to be illiterate. Other signs from the group noted how many low-income children are failing,

The group had continued posting more signs in the Triangle since 2013. But in an email message Sunday, Bootstraps founder Mary Carey told supporters that the new radio ad marks the end of the group’s run.

Carey said childhood illiteracy is no longer a “well kept secret” in North Carolina. She cited how the state is now part of the national Campaign For Grade Level Reading, the Read to Achieve program has been implemented, BEST NC was formed and the Triangle Community Foundation has made early literacy a funding priority.

Carey told supporters she’s hoping this final ad campaign will spark more conversation about literacy.

“Our commercial asks the question – will we still have a graduation rate above 80% when half the kids entered high school unable to read their 8th grade materials?” Carey writes in the email. “How are we having these high graduation rates with children who can't (read) their classroom materials?”

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