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NEWS RELEASES 2003-04 :: JULY 14, 2003


North Carolina is receiving a major federal grant, worth up to $153 million over the next six years, to boost reading performance of students in grades K-3. The announcement was made today.

The state intends to focus on schools with large numbers of at-risk students. Students in up to 100 schools in approximately 35 school districts will share in the new federal Reading First funds to provide for scientifically based reading research programs.

"If we are to eliminate the achievement gap in North Carolina, we have to remain focused on the reading ability of our students," Gov. Mike Easley said. "While we have made impressive gains on national reading tests, more remains to be done. This grant will allow us to target our efforts on the schools needing the most help and ensure that all students are receiving high quality reading instruction."

"Reading is a fundamental skill," said State Board of Education Chairman Howard N. Lee. "The reading scores of our students are improving, as evidenced by the recent National Assessment of Educational Progress release. These funds will supplement the work that is already underway under our ABCs accountability program. We welcome the help."

State Superintendent Mike Ward said some of the state's most vulnerable students would be served through this program. "These funds will be put to extremely good use to provide teachers and principals with the training and resources they need to ensure that students are reading by the end of the third grade. Our Department is anxious to begin working with local schools to implement this program."

Reading First is a federal program to boost reading skills of the lowest performing and most economically disadvantaged schools. Schools will qualify for the funds based on the reading scores of their third graders. The schools with the highest percentages of poverty students and with the highest percentages of low-performing students will be eligible to apply and compete for state subgrants. Not all schools eligible will be awarded funds. The list of schools eligible for the funds is on the Web at

Staff from the Department of Public Instruction will conduct training for eligible schools and guide them through the subgrant competition.

The funds are to be used to train teachers in the eligible schools in the principles and methodology of scientifically based reading research. This includes phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. The program also will focus on improving the preparation that students in schools of education in North Carolina receive for teaching reading.

Grants may be made to schools next spring to be used for the 2004-05 school year.

For additional information on North Carolina's Reading First program, contact June Atkinson or Mike Frye, DPI Instructional Services, at 919.807.3828.

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.