North Carolina students in early elementary education are reading more proficiently today compared to a year ago, according to the results of a new analysis. 

A press release from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction attributes the improvement to a new emphasis on the science of reading passed into law by the General Assembly in spring 2021.

The Amplify report monitored results for kindergarten through second grade. The best results came for kindergarten students, with 67% scoring at or above the benchmark by the end of the 2021-2022 school year, compared to just 27% scoring the same at the beginning of the school year.

For 1st grade students, 38% met the benchmark at the beginning of the school year, compared to 63% by the close. For 2nd graders, the numbers were 43% at the beginning and 58% by the close.

During the long session in 2021, a bi-partisan coalition of lawmakers passed the Excellent Public Schools Act, which laid out a statewide roadmap for switching literacy instruction from a “look and say” method to the phonetic method. The science of reading emphasizes five components: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

Studies have shown that reading comprehension by third grade has a major impact on career and post-secondary achievement.

“North Carolina took a huge 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 the principles outlined by the science of reading,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt in a statement. “We still have a long way to go, but the results we’re seeing from last year are clearly pointing in the right direction. We’re going to reach the goal of getting students to be proficient readers by the time they finish third grade.”

“Early literacy creates a pathway to academic proficiency and skill development throughout a child’s academic career,” said Dr. Terry Stoops, director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation. “Fortunately, North Carolina public school educators have started to embrace research-based approaches to reading instruction that will provide lasting benefits to students and the state.”

“It has been a long time since North Carolinians received good news about reading proficiency in public schools. I suspect this is the first of many positive reports to come,” Stoops added.