Nearly 40 percent of fourth-graders and 31 percent of eighth-graders performed below a basic level of proficiency in reading, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which was released Wednesday.
"We've seen a troublesome trend," State Superintendent June Atkinson said. "We're not at the stage where they are alarming. But these scores point out that we need to take bold steps in improving reading instruction."
Atkinson said a large number of retiring teachers was part of the problem.
"We are having those teachers replaced by inexperienced teachers," she said.
She added that school systems across the state will have to look for new approaches to instruction.
Chris Godwin, director of Johnston County Schools' Middle Grades Curriculum, said his school system was shifting its focus to individualized teaching.
"We have to look at what's going on in the classroom day to day," he said." We need to address kids who are very diverse in their needs."
Godwin added that the school system had received grants to reduce the drop-out rate, increase college enrollment and boost test scores through a GEAR Up Program, a national program designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter postsecondary education.
"With the GEAR Up Program, we'll have resources: academic resources, tutor programs and field trips," Godwin said.
According to the NAEP results released Wednesday, math scores held steady for fourth-graders and eighth-graders in North Carolina, and the students generally performed at or slightly better than the national average in both subjects.
"The trendline for North Carolina students is positive in mathematics. This year we held the very strong gains that we have made over the past decade," Atkinson said. "However, the NAEP reading scores show us that we have work to do. ... Reading should be a focus of every family, every school and every community."
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