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Broad collaboration on action plan to improve third-grade reading and child and family well-being

The North Carolina General Assembly has just kicked off a new legislative session, and third-grade reading outcomes are likely to be a hot topic. North Carolina has created an Action Framework that can serve as our state’s blueprint to improving that key developmental milestone for young children.

The Action Framework was co-created and vetted by hundreds of stakeholders across North Carolina, including teachers, school nurses, principals, pediatricians, advocates, academics, family support providers, philanthropic partners and more. 

The pathway to grade-level reading starts at birth. The first eight years of life lay the foundation for all future learning and development. Research demonstrates that third-grade reading proficiency is impacted by a range of factors, such as healthy birthweight, interactions with parents and caregivers, on-track development, and regular school attendance. And outcomes at third grade are predictive—children who are not reading on grade-level by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school than their peers. In 2017, only 39 percent of NC fourth-graders scored proficient on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a national benchmark that allows NC to be compared to other states.

The Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Action Framework, released this week, outlines expectations that Pathways holds of child and family systems, and proposes actions that our state can take to support children’s social-emotional health, ensure high quality birth-through-age-8 early learning environments, and create the conditions for every child to be in school every day.

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. The Pathways process and resulting Framework are the products of three years of work by dedicated stakeholders across disciplines, sectors, geography, and the political spectrum. Many of these agencies and organizations will now lead the way in implementing the policy actions in the Action Framework—as nonprofit advocates, from within state agencies, and down at the legislative building on Jones Street.

The Action Framework is 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.

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, will be reading on grade-level by the end of third grade, and all children with disabilities will achieve expressive and receptive communication skills commensurate with their developmental ages, so that they have the greatest opportunity for life success.

Mandy Ableidinger

Mandy Ableidinger is the NC Early Childhood Foundation’s Deputy Director.