NC State Education, NCDPI to Launch Wolfpack WORKS to Help Beginning Teachers Provide High-Quality Literacy Instruction

Reading Buddies Tutoring Project

North Carolina State Superintendent Mark Johnson announced Monday a new N.C. Read to Achieve initiative that includes the launching of Wolfpack WORKS, a cooperative between the NC State College of Education and the N.C. Department of Public Instruction that will support first-year, K-2 teachers as they implement proven reading instruction strategies in their classrooms.

“We’re excited to have the privilege to work with beginning teachers across the state of North Carolina,” said NC State College of Education Dean Mary Ann Danowitz. “Early literacy instruction is very complex work, particularly in high-need school districts. We know that with intensive induction support, beginning teachers improve their instruction and are more likely to stay in the profession. By helping beginning teachers to implement evidence-based instruction, this work will have a positive impact on their current and future students’ literacy learning opportunities.”

As a pilot initiative, Wolfpack WORKS (Ways to Optimize Reading/Writing for Kids Statewide) will provide literacy-specific, intensive induction support to first-year teachers in grades K-2 who work in about 15 high-need school districts in North Carolina. The program will incorporate blended professional development, literacy-specific coaching and resources that beginning K-2 teachers need to implement effective classroom literacy instruction, particularly in high-need elementary schools.

At the conclusion of the pilot, the resources developed for these teachers will be open for use for other teachers.

“We all know how important it is for students to be reading at their grade-levels,” Johnson said. “This [Wolfpack WORKS] program is just the start in the effort to give every teacher in North Carolina the additional tools they need to help their students be successful when it comes to literacy.”

The principal investigator for Wolfpack WORKS is Jill Grifenhagen, an assistant professor of literacy education at the NC State College of Education. Co-principal investigators are Ann Harrington, a teaching associate professor of reading education, and Paola Sztajn, the associate dean for research and innovation.

Grifenhagen and Harrington will hire and work with literacy coaches. These literacy coaches will be assigned to a small number of beginning teachers, whom they will support. Funding for Wolfpack WORKS will come from the state’s Read to Achieve initiative.

“We feel honored to be able to provide support to wonderful, beginning teachers across North Carolina. We know firsthand how challenging it is to teach reading and writing in high-poverty elementary schools, particularly as one enters the teaching profession,” Harrington said.

Grifenhagen added: “This work will build on our college’s success with preparing elementary teachers for literacy instruction. We are excited to support beginning teachers as they take the next step in their career and to design professional development targeted at first-year, K-2 teachers in low-performing school districts.”

During a press conference Monday in Winston-Salem, Johnson also announced that the reading initiative will support The Hill Center as its trains 400 master literacy trainers in school districts across the state.