Politics & Government

NC State gets $12 million from NC to help elementary school students read better

State education leaders are turning to N.C. State University for help improving the reading skills of young children by providing more than $12 million to a program that works with elementary schools in high-needs school districts.

N.C. State’s College of Education announced Monday that its Wolfpack WORKS literacy initiative had received a three-year, $12.3 million grant from the state Department of Public Instruction. The money will allow N.C. State to expand the work that it began last year to train beginning K-2 teachers in 16 North Carolina school districts.

“About 60 percent of North Carolina’s fourth graders read at a proficient level; we want all fourth graders reading at a proficient level because we know how important early literacy is to lifelong success and opportunity,” Mary Ann Danowitz, dean of the N.C. State College of Education, said in a news release Monday. “We also know that essential to improving early literacy is improving classroom instruction, which is exactly what Wolfpack WORKS does.”

The announcement comes after state leaders have bemoaned the lack of progress from the state Read To Achieve program. The state has spent more than $150 million since 2012 trying to get students proficient in reading by the end of third grade.

But only 52 percent of first-grade students and 56 percent of second-grade students are reading at grade level. The percentage of third-grade students passing the state’s reading test has dropped from 60.2 percent in the 2013-14 school year to 55.9 percent last year.

The lack of results has caused state leaders, such as Superintendent Mark Johnson, to say that changes are needed in Read To Achieve.

DPI awarded Wolfpack WORKS a $5.9 million grant last year to provide literacy support for all first- and second-year K-2 teachers in Anson, Bertie, Caswell, Duplin, Edgecombe, Granville, Greene, Halifax, Kannapolis City, Martin, Nash-Rocky Mount, Northampton, Vance, Warren, Washington and Wilson schools.

The new grant will allow the program to work with all third-year K-2 teachers in those districts.

N.C. State’s College of Education says the new grant is the largest that the school’s faculty has received since it began keeping records.

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