Over 44,000 Elementary Educators Master Science of Reading Professional Development

RALEIGH — Over 44,000 North Carolina educators are now practitioners in the science of reading as the third, and final, cohort of educators completed professional development as of this month, June 2024. Elementary educators have mastered this professional development, improving literacy outcome potential for over 770,000 elementary students across North Carolina.

The Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling, or LETRS®, which began rolling out the same year as the DIBELS 8 assessment, is a two-year professional development program that equips K-3 teachers with instructional tools based on decades of literacy research grounded in the science of reading. Throughout the past two years, 44,000 teachers, administrators and coaches mastered the K-5 or early childhood LETRS professional development course, equating to over 6.5 million hours of professional development.

“To say that I’m proud of these over 44,000 educators would be an understatement,” State Superintendent Catherine Truitt said. “Over the past two years, they have been diligent in LETRS® professional development, and the result is improved outcomes for not only their current students, but the future of our state. We know how critical literacy is to student success, and I’m thankful for the passion and commitment of North Carolina educators to help our students achieve their goals.”

There have been steady improvements in elementary students’ reading proficiency since the Excellent Public Schools Act, which called for all K-5 literacy educators to be trained in the science of reading, was signed into law in April 2021.

Throughout the past three years, elementary students have made strides in literacy growth due to the instructional shift and alignment to professional development in the science of reading by North Carolina educators.

Awaiting the final 2023-24 end-of-year data, overall trends have evidenced positive gains on the DIBELS 8 assessment. From the beginning of the 2021-22 school year to the middle of 2023-24, there are 69,732 fewer students below benchmark and more than 245,680 students at or above benchmark per the DIBELS 8 assessment. Moreover, subgroup data shows 18% gains for Asian, Hispanic, African American and American Indian students in kindergarten through grade 3.

Transitioning to the next phase of science of reading literacy instruction in North Carolina, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s (NCPDI) Office of Early Learning hosted public and private educator preparation programs (EPPs) for the inaugural Collaborative EPP Science of Reading Summit. This inaugural collaborative summit, held in Cary in early June, evolved from a similar event that began two years ago among independent universities through a literacy grant.

“NCDPI’s Office of Early Learning has been a partner in this work over the past few years,” Senior Director of the Office of Early Learning Amy Rhyne said. “However, the opportunity to lead this summit and expand the invitation to a variety of EPPs across the state helps to bridge the transition for pre-service teachers to in-service beginning teachers. This collaborative summit provides EPPs a variety of resources and strategies to equip future teachers with tools aligned to the science of reading.”

Throughout the summit, postsecondary leaders from over 30 institutions across North Carolina had the opportunity to advance their knowledge in the science of reading, exchange information and hear from in-service teachers about their experience putting the science of reading into practice. The goal of the annual summit is to help develop and implement aligned processes and resources to increase support for teacher candidates before they enter the classroom.

Attendees learned about the LETRS professional development implementation, early literacy specialists, legislative short session requests and science of reading alignment tools. During breakout sessions, attendees had the opportunity to collaborate and discuss initiatives at the state and university level.

“As a result of the Collaborative EPP Science of Reading Summitt,” Rhyne said, “we hope EPPs take the tools and resources from this week to better equip future educators for a seamless transition to leading their classroom in the science of reading when they walk in the door.”

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