State Directs Unused Read to Achieve Funds to New Reading Initiatives
State allocates $4.8 million to 24,000 K-3 reading teachers
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Earlier this year, State Superintendent Mark Johnson announced several new initiatives geared toward helping children read as well as aiding their teachers through two new professional development programs.
In March, Johnson announced the first of new NC Read to Achieve (RTA) initiatives by allocating $4.8 million to the state’s 24,000 K-3 reading teachers to be used to purchase literacy materials. “Making sure students can read proficiently in the crucial early years of their education is the most fundamental step we can take to place them on a path to academic and life-long success,” says Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger. “I appreciate Superintendent Johnson’s ongoing support of Read to Achieve and deep commitment to ensuring every student in North Carolina public schools can read.”
School districts and charter schools each received $200 for each K-3 reading teacher to buy books either for the classroom or to be sent home so parents can read to their young children at home. The money could also be spent towards online subscriptions for digital books and other tools, and hands-on instructional tools for use inside the classroom or at home.
Then in May, during Teacher Appreciation Week, the Superintendent announced the second new NC Read to Achieve initiative, which includes the launch of Wolfpack WORKS and a master literacy training program through the Durham-based Hill Center. Since first being elected in 2016, the superintendent is making better use of the state's RTA funding, which is an annual allotment the General Assembly set aside years ago that is intended to fund early literacy programs. Johnson noticed that many of these funds were going unspent and thus this year dedicated more than $6 million of this unspent money toward the creation and implementation of two new professional development programs for educators.
Wolfpack WORKS (Ways to Optimize Reading/Writing for Kids Statewide) is a new pilot initiative to support first-year, K-2 teachers as they teach the state’s youngest students how to read. For 2018-19, it will support first-year, K-2 teachers in approximately 15 high-need districts across North Carolina as they learn to implement proven reading-instruction strategies in their classrooms. Wolfpack WORKS will also create professional development modules focused on literacy supports and evidence-based reading instruction strategies that any teacher can use with K-2 students.
Additionally, the Hill Center will train 400 master literacy trainers in school districts across the state. Master literacy trainers will participate in online and in-person training on strategies for helping struggling readers, including the Hill Reading Achievement Program (HillRAP) intervention. These trainings build upon ongoing professional development provided by DPI and will further prepare the master literacy trainers to be valuable resources to their local districts by deepening their understanding of foundational reading skills and of a high-quality, personalized reading intervention.
“This is personal for me, because I was a ninth-grade teacher in a school in one of the high-needs areas in Charlotte, and I had students who, while they might be 13, 14, 15, 16, and even 17, were reading on fourth- and fifth-grade levels,” Johnson told the Winston-Salem Journal earlier this year. “I did not have the training to address those literacy needs, so it’s important for me, and from listening to teachers who are also in that situation, that they have access to those resources.”
Elizabeth Lincicome is the deputy community outreach coordinator for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.