Empowering Families with Data Gives Summer Reading a Boost

Empowering Families and Communities
Empowering Families with Data Gives Summer Reading a Boost

Summer vacation has arrived and while many students covet their time away from school, this break is a critically important time for families to focus on student learning. To do this effectively, parents need to know where their students are in their reading progress in order to connect them with meaningful learning opportunities. North Carolina recently launched a new initiative called READ NC, focused on helping families understand their students’ data and use it to support their learning over the summer.

The state focused this initiative on the summer months to combat “summer slide,” a troubling trend where some students, especially those from low-income families, lose some of the achievement gains made in the previous school year because they lack access to high-quality learning opportunities. One such opportunity is the ability to easily access and read books over the summer. Nearly half of the achievement gap between low and higher income students can be explained by unequal access to quality summer learning experiences. Parents consistently identify summer as the most difficult time to provide their children with productive activities. READ NC helps alleviate this burden by connecting families with literacy resources tailored to meet their child’s unique needs.

In North Carolina the test score reports that families receive at the end of the summer include a Lexile measure, which describes students’ reading level. The Lexile Framework also has a corresponding measure for books themselves, measuring the complexity of texts. This combined framework can help parents and teachers make sure that students have materials that match their particular reading level. This year, North Carolina included with the test score reports a letter from the state superintendent explaining the Lexile measure and connecting families to resources to help them use that information to support their students’ reading over the summer. One tool, the free “find a book” search engine, generates personalized reading lists for students based on their most current Lexile score. On the site, parents can enter their child’s score or current grade, select topics of interest, and instantly see a list of developmentally appropriate books. Parents can then choose from the list of suggested titles to create a personalized reading list for their child and find out whether their local library has the books. If it doesn’t? No problem, because the website also lets families search online bookstores to purchase or rent the books themselves.

READ NC is an example of how states can give families easy access to their child’s data and also help them make sense of the information in a meaningful way. We know that parents want access to this information—DQC’s 2015 poll of parents showed that 9 out of 10 parents say they rely on data to understand how their child is progressing in school. But that information must be presented in a timely and easy-to-understand format for it to be valuable. By equipping families with the tools and information that they need, North Carolina is helping to make sure that families are informed and active participants in their child’s learning journey.

Associate Director, Policy and Research
Abby works across a number of DQC’s policy priority areas, conducting project specific research, writing, and policy analysis. As an associate, Abby is able to combine her love of policy with her passion for education reform.