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1 in 3 NC third-graders held back due to low reading comprehension skills

Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 8:24 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, NC (WITN) - The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction released new data this week showing an alarming number of third-graders in our state falling behind in literacy.

In 2020, testing revealed about one in three North Carolina third-graders below their grade level in reading, according to new state data.

Lenoir County Public School Associate Superintendent, Frances Herring says she wasn’t surprised by that statistic. The ongoing pandemic has interrupted instruction for more than two years.

“And then particularly for us, we’ve had hurricanes,” Herring said. “We’ve had Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Matthew. So we’re talking about years and years of interrupted instruction for these third-graders.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislators, third grade is an important year for reading literacy, because it’s the final year students are learning to read. If students aren’t proficient readers by fourth grade, as much as half of the curriculum they’re being taught will be incomprehensible.

Herring says the school system is navigating new ways to prevent that from happening.

“So we’re using our Esser III funds,” Herring said, “To provide interventions for our students and we created a structure for 81 interventionists to come in and work in all 17 of our schools to do nothing, but solely work in small groups of reading.”

Herring says Lenoir County Public Schools are in the process of hiring the 81 interventionists and some are already working.

To further help third-graders, in May, Gov. Cooper signed house bill 82 which required all public schools to offer school learning recovery and enrichment programs over the summer.

Pitt County parent, Kylene Dibble, believes that while schools can offer programs to help students, the true success of third-graders starts with the relationship between parents and teachers.

“Stay in strong communication with your child’s teacher,” Dibble said. “They will let you know exactly what you can do to help your child because what you can do to help your child, might be different than what the next parent does to help their child.”

Dibble also encourages parents to contact their school systems about curriculum nights. Most schools in Pitt County and other neighboring school systems have them. You can find out when they happen by contacting your child’s school.

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