North Carolina is facing a growing skills gap. By 2020, 68 percent of jobs in the state will require some post-secondary education. Yet, the majority of North Carolina fourth graders are not proficient in the single greatest predictor of high school graduation and later success – reading.
Only 35% of North Carolina fourth graders and 22% of students from economically disadvantaged families scored at or above reading proficiency on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2013.
Reading in the early grades predicts high school and later success. Those who read well go on to graduate, but those who aren’t reading well by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. From a societal standpoint, every student that drops out of high school costs the nation an estimated $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes and productivity. (Early warning! why reading by the end of third grade matters)
Recognizing the importance of third grade reading outcomes, the North Carolina General Assembly passed Read to Achieve as part of the Excellent Public Schools Act. Under this law, third grade students who are not reading at grade level by the end of third grade receive additional help to make sure that they can read well enough to do fourth-grade work. The law has shown a much-needed spotlight on a complex challenge. Progress will take sustained and aligned public and private action toward a shared purpose.
For North Carolina to prosper, each child needs the best opportunity to succeed, to realize his/her potential and contribute as a productive citizen.