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NC Groups Release Diverse Framework to Improve Early Education

North Carolina has long been a leader in early-childhood education. It was the first to offer full-day kindergarten and created the nation's first comprehensive early-childhood initiative, Smart Start. (North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation)
North Carolina has long been a leader in early-childhood education. It was the first to offer full-day kindergarten and created the nation's first comprehensive early-childhood initiative, Smart Start. (North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation)
February 11, 2019

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Only 39 percent of North Carolina's third-graders are proficient in reading, according to the last National Report Card. And a recent guide issued by the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation says the state can do better.

The Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Action Framework provided expectations for systems that serve children and families. Mandy Ableidinger, policy and practice leader with the foundation, said the guide proposes actions to support children's social and emotional health, early education and regular school attendance.

"The more we can be working together and have our strategies aligned and coordinated and be moving in the same direction, I think the better chance we have of really impacting children's and families' lives,” Ableidinger said.

The report included input from service providers about what helps and what gets in the way of improving outcomes for young children and families.

Ableidinger said the Framework also was approached with a racial-equity lens grounded in family and community input. She said the actions ensure that every child will have access to high-quality education and health care.

James E. Ford is a member of the state school board, which has endorsed the plan. He said it is the first of its kind.

"From prognosis to prescription, race was always at the forefront, talking about why children often are not on grade level, why they often don't perform well in reading,” Ford said. “And the things that were endorsed as strategies, there was a consciousness about why equity needs to be a focal point."

The report showed 52 percent of white children meeting the benchmark, compared with 22 percent of black and Latino children.

Ableidinger said she wasn't surprised by support for the framework. A 2018 bipartisan poll showed the vast majority of North Carolina voters across geographic and party lines said they supported major state investments in early child development.

Terry Stoops is vice president for research at the John Locke Foundation, a North Carolina-based conservative think tank that has been a part of the process since its beginning three years ago.

"This was an effort to look at the different systems that are in place that could help with early learning,” Stoops said; “not just the government programs and the government systems, but how the family and the community can come together and leverage their resources for the benefit of our most vulnerable children."

State partners have endorsed the framework, and the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation is calling on others to adopt it. For more information visit www.buildthefoundation.org.

Antionette Kerr, Public News Service - NC