State’s Leading Experts Recommend Action on Grade-Level Reading

Leaders from state agencies, nonprofit organizations, foundations and the private sector announced recommendations for aligning action around seven measures of success to boost young children’s reading proficiency and build a strong foundation for learning. The measures reflect the latest research on what children from birth to age eight need to be reading on grade-level by the end of third grade. They encompass all aspects of children’s well-being, including having good health and on-track development beginning at birth, living in supported and supportive families and communities, having access to high quality birth-to-eight learning environments, and regularly attending early learning programs and schools.

The leaders prioritized ensuring that children get a healthy start and go on to develop the social-emotional skills they need to succeed in school. They highlighted the critical importance of brain development and the impact of toxic stress on children’s school and life success. They pointed out that parents and teachers are well-positioned to help ensure children’s healthy social-emotional development, and that communities and policymakers have both the responsibility and the opportunity to support parents and teachers in that important work.

The Duke Endowment is proud to support this process to align action in the state around a common vision centered on shared birth-to-eight measures of success that are research-based,” said Tamika Wiliams, Associate Director at The Duke Endowment. “The Pathways work recognizes that children benefit from a firm foundation that is established and optimized through provisions that ensure good health, supported and supportive families and communities, and high-quality education. These are all critical elements to make certain every child is on a pathway to grade-level reading.”

The specific measures recommended for aligned action include: Healthy Birthweight to provide a good start in life for every child. Early Interventions and Social Supports for Families, in order to ensure Positive Parent and Child Interactions, which support children’s Social-Emotional Health. Access to High Quality Birth to Eight Early Care and Education ensures that children have excellent early care and education environments and Regular Attendance at early learning programs and schools ensures that they benefit from them.

The leaders prioritized these seven measures of success from among more than 70 included in a research-based Measures of Success Framework of whole-child, birth-to-eight measures that move the needle on third-grade reading proficiency. In order to prioritize where to start moving to action first, they spent four months reviewing how North Carolina’s children and families are doing on the measures of success, including in-depth consideration of existing disparities based on race/ethnicity, income, and geography. The Measures of Success Framework they worked with was developed earlier this year by the Pathways to Grade Level Reading Data Action Team – thirty experts from North Carolina’s leading universities, research institutes, government agencies, businesses and think tanks.

The NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading initiative is led by a stakeholder group more than 100 strong and growing daily, representing government agencies, nonprofit organizations, the private sector, foundations, research institutions and members of the General Assembly. The stakeholders will meet in March of 2017 to discuss the recommended measures and kick off the next phase of the work.

In 2017, diverse teams of leaders from relevant state agencies and advocacy organizations, as well as providers of children’s services, policymakers, and others, will come together around the chosen measures of success to recommend changes to federal, state and local policies, practices and capacities that can improve children’s outcomes on the prioritized measures.

The Pathways initiative focuses on grade-level reading proficiency because research demonstrates that third grade reading is a marker for overall well-being and predicts future school and life 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. There is urgency to this work. Only 38 percent of North Carolina fourth graders and 25 percent of students from economically disadvantaged families scored at or above reading proficiency on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2015.

The NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Initiative is creating partnerships among the state’s early learning and education, public agency, policy, philanthropic and business leaders to define a common vision, shared measures of success and coordinated strategies that support children’s optimal development beginning at birth. It is an initiative of the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF) in partnership with NC Child, NC Partnership for Children and Excellence (BEST NC).

NCECF has a bold vision that each North Carolina child has a strong foundation for lifelong success and reading proficiency, supported by the nation’s best birth-to-eight system. NCECF promotes public understanding of and support for policies that promote children’s birth-to-eight years for academic and lifelong success, convenes and spearheads collaboration to bridge North Carolina’s birth-to-five and kindergarten-to-third grade systems, and advances policies that create a stronger NC today and tomorrow by supporting each child’s birth-to-eight development.

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