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NEWS RELEASES 2000-01 :: JULY 19, 2000


North Carolina got a tremendous boost to its efforts to ensure that students are proficient in reading with today's announcement that the state is receiving $15 million from the federal Reading Excellence Act grant funds.

The funds will primarily be used to help schools in 11 school systems in North Carolina. The systems will have to apply for competitive grants to share in the funds. Professional development for teachers and other staff, literacy specialists, extended learning opportunities for students and materials could be provided by the grant. The funds are targeted at grades K-3.

State Superintendent Mike Ward said he is "extremely pleased" to learn that the Department of Public Instruction's application for the Reading Excellence Act funds was approved. The primary purpose of the North Carolina Reading Excellence Act Grant is to ensure that all North Carolina children can read by the completion of the third grade.

Ward said, "These funds will go far in our efforts to help local school systems ensure that all students learn the reading skills they need to be successful in school. The funds are particularly important since new Student Accountability Standards, requiring proficiency in reading, begin during the upcoming school year."

State Board of Education Chairman Phil Kirk also expressed his appreciation for the grant. He said the funds will help train teachers to do a better job teaching reading. "Youngsters who learn to read in the early grades will benefit throughout their school careers. That's why I'm so pleased to see that a part of these funds will be used to train and retrain teachers to do a better job teaching reading."

Over the next year, the Department of Public Instruction will train literacy specialists in each of the 11 school systems. Those specialists will then work with local central offices and school staffs to complete grants. Funds will be awarded on a competitive basis. The schools will begin receiving funds in August 2001 and will have to spend the funds during the 2001-02 and 2002-03 school years.

The four primary goals of the grants are to:

  1. Provide professional development about scientifically-based reading research to K-3 instructional, administrative, and support staff to improve the instructional practices of teachers, and, as appropriate, other instructional staff in elementary schools;

  2. Develop or expand family literacy programs with an emphasis on serving the families most in need;

  3. Develop or expand extended learning opportunities to provide children with the readiness skills and support they need in early childhood to learn to read once they enter school; and

  4. Provide additional support and tutoring for students having difficulty making the transition from kindergarten to grade 1, particularly students experiencing difficulty with reading skills.

The school systems eligible to apply for funds under the competitive grant are: Gaston County, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Alamance-Burlington, Robeson County, Cumberland County, Wayne County, Wilson County, Edgecombe County, Halifax County, Washington County and Hyde County. The systems will be able to apply for funds to be used in schools with grades pre-kindergarten through grade 3 with the highest percentage of students in poverty or the highest numbers of students in poverty.

North Carolina competed for the reading funds with 30 other states. A total of 12 states were awarded funds through the U.S. Department of Education's Reading Excellence initiative. For additional information on the grant, contact Mike Frye, section chief for English Language Arts, 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.