The NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading initiative envisions a future where all North Carolina children, regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status, are proficient readers by the end of third grade, ensuring equal opportunity for success in life. 

Through the Data Dashboard, Action Map, and insightful publications, Pathways aims to drive actionable strategies forward, with a deliberate focus on advancing racial equity. Pathways Partners can use these resources to guide collaborative efforts, leveraging data-driven insights and targeted policies to ensure that all children in North Carolina have the support they need to thrive academically and beyond.

What would be possible if…

  • We adopted shared, whole child, birth-to-age-eight measures that put children on a pathway to grade-level reading?
  • We coordinated strategies to support children’s optimal development beginning at birth?
  • We aligned policies and practices that were rooted in how children develop?

The NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading (Pathways) initiative is all about possibility. This collaborative of diverse leaders is building on North Carolina’s history of innovation and success to reach for a bold vision:

All North Carolina children, regardless of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status, are reading on grade-level by the end of third grade, and all children with disabilities achieve expressive and receptive communication skills commensurate with their developmental ages, so that they have the greatest opportunity for life success. 

Reading well in the early grades predicts a child’s academic and career success. Research shows that improving third grade reading takes a coordinated birth-through-age-eight approach with aligned policies and practices that focuses on:

  • Children’s Health and Development, Beginning at Birth
  • Supported and Supportive Families and Communities
  • High-Quality Birth-through-Age-Eight Learning Environments, with Regular Attendance

Driving the Pathways initiative is the foundational belief that together we can realize greater outcomes for young children than any of us can produce on our own. Pathways Partners work across disciplines, sectors, systems, and the political aisle.

Together, Pathways created a data framework and a policy framework to help drive action in our state towards grade-level reading for every child. We continue our collaborative work with these tools as our guide and a focus on racial equity: 

  1. Pathways Measures of Success Framework includes more than 60 whole child measures that influence grade-level reading, visualized in the Pathways Data Dashboard.
  2. Pathways Action Framework includes more than 40 prioritized policy and strategy areas that can help move the needle forward on grade-level reading in NC, particularly for children of color, visualized in the Pathways Action Map





  • State leaders identified shared birth-to-age-eight, whole-child measures of success to put children on a pathway to grade-level reading.
  • 95% of stakeholder respondents said they “felt confident that if the state made progress on these measures, we would improve third grade reading outcomes.”
  • The NC General Assembly highlighted Pathways in the 2016 and 2017 budgets when it passed and updated provisions calling for greater birth-to-age-eight coordination across agencies and organizations, “including consideration of the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading.”
  • Collaborative partner organizations have incorporated the Pathways measures into their own data tracking and reporting.
  • Local communities across the state are using the Pathways Measures of Success Framework for collaborative community planning—identifying which of the Pathways shared measures to focus on locally and developing strategies for action to improve child and family outcomes.
  • The NC Pathways Measures of Success Framework has been shared nationally and is being used by communities in other states as well who are focused on improving outcomes for young children.
  • Hundreds of North Carolina leaders worked across sectors, geography, and the political aisle to co-create the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Action Framework, which outlines expectations for the state’s child and family serving systems and actions to support children’s social-emotional health, ensure high quality birth-through-age-eight early learning environments, and create the conditions for every child to be in school every day.
  • The Frameworks are informing the development of the state’s Early Childhood Action Plan, as well as serving as a foundation of other state-level early childhood initiatives like the Leandro Commission for Sound, Basic Education, the myFutureNC Commission, and the B-3rd Interagency Council.
  • The Pathways Measures of Success Framework has inspired various early childhood data development initiatives in NC, including the NC Early Childhood Data Advisory Council and data workgroup recommendations for measuring social-emotional health and child development at kindergarten entry
  • The Pathways Action Framework’s focus on social-emotional health supported NC Child’s development of the EarlyWell Initiative. Two reports have been published to guide EarlyWell’s work, one focused on listening to family voices and the other summarizing policy and practice recommendations put forward by cross sector workgroups. 
  • Two online tools have been created to equip NC leaders with the information they need to advance Pathways’ vision: the Pathways Data Dashboard and Pathways Action Map

What Should We Measure?

In Phase I of Pathways, a Data Action Team identified shared birth-through-age-eight, whole child measures that research has demonstrated can move the needle on third grade reading proficiency to create the Measures of Success Framework. Learn more.

Where Should We Focus?

In Phase II, Learning Teams looked at the NC data around those measures and, based on overall need and equity considerations, recommended a set of measures to move to action on first. Learn more.

What Should We Do?

In Phase III of Pathways, Design Teams co-created the Pathways Action Framework to help North Carolina align around policy, practice and capacity-building strategies that will shift the prioritized measures of success, particularly for children of color. Learn More.

Advancing Work

June 2022

The EarlyWell Initiative releases its policy and practice recommendations in the report titled From Equity to Issue Campaigns: The Next Stop on the Road Map to Childhood Mental Health in North Carolina. NCECF partners closely with NC Child on EarlyWell, which builds on Expectation 4 of the Pathways Action Framework.

April 2022

The Pathways Action Map is released. This interactive tool aims to spotlight what’s happening across the state in more than 40 prioritized actions that can help move the needle on grade-level reading and child well-being, outlined in the Pathways Action Framework.

January 2022

Pathways is featured in the North Carolina Medical Journal article Pathways to Grade-Level Reading: A Whole Child Approach to Literacy

September/ December 2021

The NC Early Childhood Data Advisory Council convenes to share early childhood data updates from state agencies and discuss data development plans for two child care measures.

August 2021

NCECF partners with NC Child to complete the recommendation development phase of the EarlyWell Initiative. EarlyWell builds on Expectation 4 of the Pathways Action Framework: NC’s social-emotional health system is accessible and high-quality.

May 2021

The NC Early Childhood Data Advisory Council met to discuss next steps for data development, review data implications of COVID-19, and hear data updates including recent report on Black parent experiences due to COVID-19 and racism. 

February 2021

The NC Early Childhood Data Advisory Council met to hear early childhood data updates and discuss the path forward during the COVID-19 pandemic.

December 2020

NCECF begins collaborating to create the Pathways Action Map; an online tool that will help drive action by highlighting NC initiatives that are working to address one or more of the 44 actions prioritized in the Pathways Action Framework. 

November 2020

The NC Early Childhood Data Advisory Council met to learn about state and national data projects, hear early childhood data updates, and report on the first two prioritized data development measures.

August 2020

The NC Early Childhood Data Advisory Council met to hear early childhood data updates from DPI and DHHS and choose two data measures to work on developing.

June 2020

The Pathways Data Dashboard is released. The interactive dashboard shares disaggregated data on more than 60 whole-child, birth-to-eight measures that matter for third grade reading proficiency.

April 2020

The Child Development at Kindergarten Entry Data Workgroup and the Children’s Social-Emotional Health Data Workgroup release their recommendations, which will inform Pathways and the NC Early Childhood Action Plan.

February 2020

The NC Early Childhood Data Advisory Council met to learn and discuss early childhood data updates.

November 2019

A case study sharing the three-year Pathways to Grade-Level Reading initiative’s process, the products that the stakeholders co-created, and the impacts of the initiative to date, is released. Bridging Sectors to Co-Create NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading is a resource for local partners and other states who are interested in replicating the Pathways process to convene cross-sector stakeholders around the collaborative goal of improving third-grade reading proficiency.

November 2019

Pathways Partners meet to review Pathways work in 2019 and look ahead to how we can collaborate to operationalize the Pathways Action Framework in 2020. Learn more.

September 2019-February 2020

The Children’s Social-Emotional Health data workgroup is working on recommending a measure or portfolio of measures to capture young children’s social-emotional health and development at the population level.

September 2019

The NC Early Childhood Data Advisory Council meets for the second time to co-create an early childhood data development strategy for the state.

May-September 2019

The Child Development at Kindergarten Entry Data Workgroup is working on recommending a measure or measures to capture children’s development on entering kindergarten at the population level.

May 2019

The NC Early Childhood Data Advisory Council is formed and meets for the first time. Members of the Data Advisory Council and the Child Development at Kindergarten Entry data workgroup participate in a joint racial equity training by CounterPart Consulting.

February 2019

The Pathways Action Framework is released.

October 2018

Pathways Partners meet to endorse the Pathways Action Framework and launch the implementation phase of the Pathways work. Learn more.

August 2018

Design Team completes draft Pathways Action Framework.

March 2018

Community Conversations Round 2. The fourteen communities meet again to offer input into which strategies to prioritize. Learn more.

December 2017

NCECF releases Not About Me, Without Me, synthesizing the voices of more than 2,000 North Carolina parents and identifying themes around what helps and hinders them as they support their young children’s healthy development. 

August-September 2017

Community Conversations Round 1. Fourteen communities across the state hold meetings with local providers to provide input into the Pathways Design Teams’ areas of focus. Providers share what supports them and what gets in the way of their work to advance the success of children and families. Learn more.

June 2017 - August 2018

Design Teams focused on children’s social-emotional health, high quality birth-through-age-eight care and education, and regular school attendance to co-create a Pathways Action Framework. The work uses an equity lens, with an explicit, but not exclusive, focus on racial equity. The process incorporates input from families, Design Team experts, local providers of services for children and families, and national research on what moves the needle in the areas of focus, particularly for children of color. Learn more.

March 2017

Pathways Partners meet to confirm priorities and launch Design Teams. Design Teams are tasked with answering the question, What Should We Do? Learn more.

July-December 2016

Learning Teams examine how NC is doing on the measures and recommend where to start. Pathways Partners help determine where there is momentum for action already in NC. Learn more.

May 2016

Pathways Partners meet to finalize Measures of Success Framework and define Pathways’ theory of change. Learn more.

January-April 2016

Data Action Team reviews research and develops Measures of Success Framework. Pathways Partners help define quality and data accessibility, and rank and comment on draft measures. Learn More.

November 2015

Pathways Partners stakeholder group meets to launch Pathways Initiative. Learn More.

Pathways Endorsements

Is your agency, organization or business ready to endorse Pathways? Let us know!

Since 2015, hundreds of North Carolina leaders have worked across sectors, geography, and the political aisle to co-create shared Measures of Success and an Action Framework for North Carolina.

Pathways Partners are endorsing the Frameworks. They recommend that the shared Measures of Success serve as the foundation for building North Carolina’s state and local birth-through-eight system and agree that the actions in the Action Framework, if well-implemented, can improve children’s third grade reading and well-being outcomes. 

Click here to add your organization, agency or business to the list.

Alamance Achieves
Alamance Partnership for Children
The Arc of NC
Ashe County Partnership for Children
Bailey Elementary School
Blue Ridge Community College
Book Harvest
Buncombe Partnership for Children
Cape Fear Collective
Catholic Charities
Center for Child and Family Health
Center for Educational Measurement and Evaluation, UNC Charlotte
Chatham Reads
ChildTrust Foundation
Child Care Services Association
Child First National Program Office
Child First – NC
Community Care of North Carolina
The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina
Communities In Schools of North Carolina
Craven Smart Start
Down East Partnership for Children
Duke World Food Policy Center
The Duke Endowment
Duplin County Partnership for Children
Durham’s Partnership for Children
East Durham Children’s Initiative
Exchange Family Center
Family Support Network
Family Resource Center South Atlantic
Forsyth Partnership for Children and Families
Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
Govan-Hunt Staff Development, LLC & Critical Curriculum Consulting
Growing Moore Readers
Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Division
Head Start Collaboration Office
Helps Education Fund
Hoke County Schools
Institute for Emerging Issues at NC State University
Johnston County Partnership for Children
The Kaleidoscope Project
Marbles Kids Museum
Montgomery County Partnership for Children
Motheread, Inc.
myFutureNC Commission
National Black Child Development Institute – Charlotte
NC Alliance of YMCAs
NC Association for the Education of Young Children
NC Child
NC Child Treatment Program
NC Department of Health and Human Services – Early Intervention Branch
NC Division of Child Development and Early Education
NC Head Start Association
NC Infant and Young Child Mental Health Association
NC Justice Center
NC Partnership for Children/Smart Start
NC Pediatric Society
NC Rural Center
NC School Superintendents’ Association
NC State Board of Education
Onslow County Partnership for Children
OpenSource Leadership Strategies
Partnership for Children of Cumberland County
Partnership for Children of Johnston County
Partnership for Children of Wayne County
Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina
Reach Out and Read Carolinas
Read Wayne
Ready for School, Ready for Life – Guilford County
Region A Partnership for Children
Robeson County Partnership for Children
Smart Start of Forsyth County
Smart Start of Mecklenburg County
Smart Start of New Hanover County
Smart Start of Transylvania County
Southwestern Child Development Commission
Stokes Partnership for Children
Triangle Community Foundation
Twin Cities Read to Rise of Nash/Edgecombe Counties
United Way of Alamance County
United Way of the Greater Triangle
United Way of North Carolina
Wake County Smart Start
WAKE Up and Read
Wayne Action Group for Economic Solvency, Inc. (WAGES)
Wayne County Department of Social Services
Wilkes Community Partnership for Children
Winer Family Foundation

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