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The Impact of North Carolina's Excellent Public Schools Act on Literacy

In North Carolina, we are witnessing a transformative shift in elementary education, propelled by the Excellent Public Schools Act of 2021. As a co-sponsor of this legislation, alongside my colleagues Senators Phil Berger and Deanna Ballard, we were driven by a commitment to fundamentally reform how our children learn to read. The impetus for this change was clear: what we had been doing wasn't working, and we still had far too many children unable to read at grade level. We knew we had to do something different.

Today, I am thrilled to report that our efforts are paying off: North Carolina's elementary students are not just meeting but surpassing national reading benchmarks.

Recent data presented to the State Board of Education paints a vivid picture of success. From the beginning to the middle of the 2023-24 school year, our kindergarten through third-grade students have shown remarkable improvements in reading. Notably, kindergarteners in North Carolina improved their reading assessment scores by an impressive 22 percent, eclipsing the national improvement rate of 13 percent. This surge in proficiency is a continuing trend since the law's implementation, with over 34,000 students now reading at or above grade level. These figures are more than mere statistics; they represent over 34,000 stories of potential unlocked and futures brightened.

The pivotal role of State Superintendent Catherine Truitt and the dedicated efforts of thousands of teachers across our state cannot be overstated. Under Superintendent Truitt's leadership, and through the hard work of our educators, the science of reading has moved from theory to practice. This approach, grounded in decades of literacy research, has been instrumental in our success. Particularly, the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) program has equipped educators with effective tools and strategies for teaching reading. By July, we expect all 115 school districts in North Carolina to have completed LETRS training, bringing the total to 44,000 K-5 educators trained under this initiative.

Together, we are ensuring that our children not only learn to read but also read to learn, setting them on a path to read, lead, and succeed throughout their lives.


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