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National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading names NC Early Childhood Foundation lead organization

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has named the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF) as the lead organization for North Carolina. The Campaign is a collaborative effort by foundations, nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, states and communities across the nation that focuses on an important predictor of school success and high school graduation—grade-level reading by the end of third grade.

“We are grateful that NCECF is stepping up to provide leadership and support for the Campaign in North Carolina,” said Ron Fairchild, Director of the Network Communities Support Center for the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.  “NCECF will play a pivotal role in helping ensure that more low-income children in North Carolina read proficiently by the end of third grade.”

As the state lead, NCECF will support North Carolina’s existing local campaigns to improve third- grade reading outcomes and work with new communities to join the effort.  It also will convene state leaders to develop a coordinated strategy based on research, data and identified best practices to define, fund and implement policies to ensure that North Carolina’s children are reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

Only 35 percent of North Carolina fourth graders and 22 percent of students from economically disadvantaged families scored at or above reading proficiency on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2013. (Economically disadvantaged is defined as children eligible for the National School Lunch Program.)

Reading in the early grades predicts high school 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. 

“Grade-level reading is achievable,” said Tracy Zimmerman, NCECF Executive Director. “Reading proficiency is a cumulative process that develops from birth and is rooted in early brain development. Advances in brain science research and decades of longitudinal studies have identified what children need to be successful readers by third grade – good health, strong families and high quality early learning experiences that build social-emotional and cognitive development.”

Currently, there are three campaigns in North Carolina – Wake Up and Read (Wake County), Read Charlotte (Mecklenburg County) and the Town of Southern Pines (Moore County). Wake Up and Read was recognized by the national campaign as a 2014 Pacesetter for making measurable progress in improving third-grade reading proficiency through a focus on student readiness.  Overall, third-grade reading proficiency on the state end-of-grade test increased from 67.1% in 2013 to 70.1% in 2014.

NCECF’s mission is to marshal North Carolina’s great people, ideas and achievements to build a foundation of opportunity and success for every child by the end of third grade. It works to build public will, accelerate what works and ignite action that closes the achievement gap and raises outcomes for all young children.

Mebane Rash

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC.