North Carolina Should Focus on Early Childhood Learning in Order to Raise Achievement in Predominantly Disadvantaged School Districts (May 2019)

Using a national dataset of average test scores for school districts from 2009–2015, the Program Evaluation Division (PED) identified characteristics of predominantly disadvantaged districts that demonstrate average or better performance on standardized state tests; PED subsequently completed case studies of 12 such districts. PED found that the gap in achievement between predominantly disadvantaged districts and more advantaged districts is already present by third grade and that the small group of high-performing predominantly disadvantaged districts are already achieving these average or better test results in third grade. Thereafter, these districts maintain similar rates of student growth compared to other disadvantaged districts. PED found that high-achieving predominantly disadvantaged districts share several characteristics including focusing on early education; increasing or maximizing student learning time; attracting, developing, and retaining high-quality teachers; using data and coaching to improve instruction; seeking additional outside resources; and promoting a local school board focus on policy and academic achievement. The General Assembly should require districts that the State Board of Education identifies as low-performing to create an early childhood learning improvement plan as a component of their required plans for improvement, and should require an assessment of early childhood learning as part of the Department of Public Instruction’s comprehensive needs assessment process for certain low-performing districts.

Final Report

Executive Summary


Full Presentation with Audio Narration

Presentation Slides

Relevant Legislation:

  • Session Law 2020-55 requires consideration of early childhood learning in improvement plans for low-performing local school administrative units and requires that comprehensive needs assessments for low-performing local school administrative units include analysis of early childhood learning

Press Coverage: