New report outlines research behind measures that move the needle on third-grade reading

The NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading initiative is building on North Carolina’s history of innovation and success to tackle one of the greatest challenges facing the state: the overwhelming majority of our children, especially those from low-income families, are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade. Reading well in the early grades predicts a child’s academic and career success.

Third grade reading proficiency is achievable with policies and practices that reflect the science—reading is a cumulative process that develops from birth and is rooted in early brain development. Research shows that improving third grade reading takes a coordinated birth-through-age-eight approach that focuses on children’s health and development, families and communities, and high quality learning environments with regular attendance.

Shared Measures of Success to Put North Carolina Children on a Pathway to Grade-Level Reading outlines the research basis behind the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Measures of Success Framework. The Framework includes nearly 60 measures that research tells us move the needle on third grade reading. It was developed by the Pathways Data Action Team—30 experts from North Carolina’s leading universities, research institutes, government agencies, businesses and think tanks—in partnership with Pathways to Grade-Level Reading partners, a group 150 strong and growing. The Framework evolved with input from the Pathways Learning Teams—content, data and policy experts who identified trends, inequities, patterns and connections in the NC data behind the measures.

This report includes:

  • The NC Pathways to Grade Level Reading vision and rationale.
  • Why third grade reading is a critical milestone for young children.
  • Why it is important to start thinking about third grade reading at birth, and why working across silos helps ensure healthy child development and good academic outcomes.
  • The Measures of Success Framework and the research behind it, highlighting how each measure impacts third grade reading outcomes.
  • Community Conditions that impact children’s school success and healthy development.

Pathways is bringing together diverse leaders working across disciplines—health, family and community support, and early learning and education; across sectors—government, policy, private and nonprofit; across systems—birth-through-age-five and kindergarten-through-third-grade; and across the political aisle. And people are acting. Having co-created these shared measures, Pathways partners are now moving towards aligning policies and coordinating strategies to best support NC children’s success.

Pathways is an initiative of the NC Early Childhood Foundation in collaboration with NC Child, the North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc., and BEST NC.