NORTH CAROLINA, USA — Educators will soon be getting some help as the state of North Carolina transitions into a new way of teaching reading in the classroom. It’s an initiative that will place literacy coaches in every district.
The NC Department of Public Instruction is following the footsteps of Mississippi’s literacy coach deployment, which helped the state make some major headway in reading scores.
Now the rollout here will help North Carolina teachers get the support they need to put the science of reading technique into practice.
“Our teachers are already saying, I wish I had known this before,” Amy Rhyne said.
She is the Office of Early Learning Director for DPI.
Rhyne tells WCNC Charlotte’s Jesse Pierre that professional development is already underway to shift educators to this way of teaching students reading. The two-year training is broken down into several units.
“Unit one, they focus on the overview of the science of reading... the brain," she explained. "In unit two, they begin to learn how to respond and support phonemic awareness. And then unit three, you know, they'll start with phonics.”
It's a training that Rhyne said will put all educators and students on the right path.
“When you know better you do better," Rhyne said. "And so how do we move away from teaching a child to look at a picture, which isn't always matching the words on the page, to truly focusing on how to identify those sounds, and apply sounds to letters and then letters to words and then words to the meaning.”
It’s a technique that really looks at the science behind how kids learn to read. Planning that has been in the works since 2019. Rhyne said it will help get students back on track, especially following the drastic learning loss from the pandemic.
“School year '18–'19, for example, grade one, they were at 71% proficient, which is pretty good for first grade, but still not where we want them to be," she said. "But after the pandemic, coming right out of they were at 38% proficient.”
To align instruction efforts across the state the agency is planning to hire 115 early literacy coaches to support school systems.
“Whether that's training at the district level, at first, then to the principal level then to the coach level, and even modeling in some classrooms if needed in this first year," Rhyne said. "But everything we're doing will be based on the data from the districts as we shift and move to a more strategic focus.”
The goal is to also hire eight regional coaches and a leadership role to oversee the training. Rhyne admits it will be challenging as the state is also dealing with a teacher shortage.
“We don't want to fill positions just to fill them," Rhyne said. "We do truly want highly qualified candidates who are strong and can help us. So I’d recognize the fact that we may not fill all 124 or 115 immediately, it may take some time.”
Pending state approval and finalizing some of the legal processes, DPI hopes to have positions posted in September and for hiring to start shortly after.