North Carolina’s youngest students made solid progress in early literacy skills in the 2021-22 school year, outperforming students in other states where the same assessment is used to measure progress students throughout the year.
The gains were made in the first full year of a massive, statewide initiative to support elementary school teachers with in-depth teaching training based on the “science of reading.” a phonetics-based approach with strong evidence of effectiveness. State education officials are encouraged by last year’s assessment results, which they say are a first indication that schools across the state are embracing the science of reading in the classroom, though many teachers are still learning through the two-year professional development program, Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling, or LETRS.
The Early Literacy Assessment, an updated version of an assessment called mCLASS with DIBELS, is based on the science of reading and measures students’ proficiency in key skills such as phonemic awareness and phonics. The tool was used with all kindergarten through third grade students in North Carolina for the first time in the 2021-22 school year. The assessment results showed that North Carolina students in all four grades made greater gains from the start to the end of the school year than students in other states using the same assessment.
The state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Catherine Truitt, said the results show the state is using the best approach to improve literacy skills for all students.
“North Carolina has taken a big step forward with the passage of the Excellent Public Schools Act in the spring of 2021, ensuring that all students learn to read based on principles set forth by the science of reading,” said said Truitt. “We still have a long way to go, but the results we see last year are clearly going in the right direction. We will achieve the goal of having students be proficient readers by the time they complete third grade. »
Earnings by North Carolina students last year compared to earnings of 1.6 million K-3 students elsewhere in the country whose progress has been tracked with the same assessment, according to Amplify, the education company that provides the mCLASS assessment under contract with the Department of Public Instruction.
Amplify reported significant skill increases at all levels from K-2 in North Carolina by the end of 2021-22, as measured by mCLASS with DIBELS 8th Edition benchmark data by compared to a dataset representing students in all states except North Carolina.
Additional data can be found here.
The assessment North Carolina schools used in the 2021-22 school year more closely aligns with the science of reading’s focus on five critical components: phonemic awareness, phonetics, fluency , vocabulary and comprehension. Therefore, comparisons between last year’s results and previous years are not consistent.
Additionally, the assessment results are not comparable to the state’s end-of-year reading tests, which are administered beginning in third grade. These exams measure whether a student has mastered grade level standards, from a basic level to a more rigorous understanding, while the mCLASS assessment measures the essential and foundational skills students need to become good readers.
Teachers administer the mCLASS assessment with individual students at the beginning, middle, and end of the school year, and are encouraged to use it at other times to monitor student progress. In addition to student progress data, the various components of mCLASS also help guide teachers in their literacy instruction and interventions.
Amy Rhyne, who leads the state’s early literacy program as director of the Department of Public Instruction’s Office of Early Learning, said she believes the state’s gains the year The latter could be attributed to strong leadership and teacher engagement in school districts across the state. to help drive meaningful change in early literacy teaching and learning.
“With North Carolina’s statewide emphasis on the science of reading, many districts have moved ahead with formal LETRS training so they can learn more about the science of reading and establishing aligned processes,” Rhyne said. “In many cases, we are seeing positive trends where the leader is on board and advocating for this change, along with clear processes to support implementation.”