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Helping students to become strong readers in North Carolina

Learning Differences Programme / Partner story

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Education NC (EdNC) is an LDP partner that provides investigative journalism, diverse perspectives and policy research on education issues in North Carolina. For the past several years, EdNC has provided statewide coverage on North Carolina’s journey to improve early reading instruction, chronicling and helping to advance policy and practice to help more students become strong readers. In April 2021, EdNC’s coverage contributed to the successful passage of new statewide legislation governing the teaching of reading in all NC classrooms.

EdNC’s first feature on research-based reading instruction – A Wall of Sound, in 2019 – clarified what research-based reading instruction is, explained why it matters (particularly for students with learning differences) and described policy changes under consideration in NC to align with that approach. At that time, state policy on reading instruction focused mainly on offering summer reading camps for at-risk students and holding back students who did not demonstrate reading proficiency by the end of third grade – it did not state a position on how reading should be taught. Independent evaluations of that policy found it was almost entirely ineffective, which led to multiple efforts and policy proposals to improve the state’s reading results.

From 2019 through today, EdNC has covered these efforts at the state and local levels (for example, coverage of a statewide literacy task force, efforts to improve teacher preparation in early reading instruction, and local programs that used research-based reading instruction with real success). In early 2021, EdNC chronicled the development of new reading legislation building on all the state has learned over the past few years. In April, it covered the successful passage of that legislation, including broad support from educators and education leaders for the shift.

The new legislation incorporates all of the components of research-based reading instruction that EdNC first highlighted in 2019 and has emphasised in its coverage since (including essential components for students who learn differently) and culminates three years of EdNC’s clear influence with teachers, families and policy-makers about improving reading outcomes for NC’s students.

“EdNC has really stayed on the story,” says Julie Kowal, programme officer at Oak Foundation. “Their efforts to raise awareness about the science of reading, which helps keep the state focused on helping all students learn to read well, is really invaluable.”

In 2019, we had the opportunity to talk with Rupen Fofaria, a staff writer at EdNC, who gave us his views on the importance of raising awareness about bringing equal educational opportunities to all students in North Carolina. You can watch the video here. By reporting on the experiences that students with learning differences have and what teachers can do to better support these students, EdNC seeks to raise awareness of the solutions available in North Carolina. “We really get into the classrooms and see what special education, as well as the broader context of learning differences, looks like in schools,” says Rupen. “There’s a vast amount of information from data, research and best practices that’s been produced nationally and state-wide that doesn’t always find its way to the teachers. I want to present that to teachers so that they can better reach their students.”

This work falls under Oak’s Learning Differences Programme, which believes that together we can build a world in which schools unlock the creativity and power of every young person and equip them to shape more just and equitable communities. You can learn more about our Learning Differences Programme here.