Wolfpack WORKS Receives $12.2M Grant from DPI to Improve Early Literacy Across NC

Wolfpack WORKS receives $12.2 million grant to expand.

RALEIGH, North Carolina—The NC State College of Education’s Wolfpack WORKS literacy initiative has received a three-year, $12,266,816 grant from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to expand its support of beginning K-2 teachers and improve early literacy outcomes across North Carolina.

“We are grateful to have the support of this grant from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to expand Wolfpack WORKS and to provide ongoing assistance to beginning K-2 teachers as they help their students improve reading and writing,” said Mary Ann Danowitz, dean of the NC State College of Education. “About 60 percent of North Carolina’s fourth graders read at a proficient level; we want all fourth graders reading at a proficient level because we know how important early literacy is to lifelong success and opportunity. We also know that essential to improving early literacy is improving classroom instruction, which is exactly what Wolfpack WORKS does.”

Wolfpack WORKS began in summer 2018 with an initial one-year, $5,894,541 grant from DPI to provide intensive, literacy-specific induction support to all first- and second-year K-2 teachers in 16 high-need school districts in North Carolina (Anson, Bertie, Caswell, Duplin, Edgecombe, Granville, Greene, Halifax, Kannapolis City, Martin, Nash-Rocky Mount, Northampton, Vance, Warren, Washington, Wilson schools).

The new three-year, $12.26 million grant will allow Wolfpack WORKS to expand its support to include all third-year K-2 teachers in partner school districts, in addition to first- and second-year teachers. This will bring the number of beginning teachers the program is expected to serve up from 170 to over 240. The three-year timeline also includes expanded plans to evaluate the program’s impact on participating teachers’ early literacy knowledge and practice and their students’ reading achievement in the short- and long-term.

Launched in Summer 2018, Wolfpack WORKS supports over 170 first- and second-year, K-2 teachers in 16 high-need school districts across North Carolina as they learn to implement evidence-based literacy instruction.

“We want to continue to work with beginning teachers through their third year in a tiered model of support, as our current participants learn to become stronger early literacy educators,” said Dr. Jill Grifenhagen, Wolfpack WORKS’ principal investigator and an assistant professor of literacy education at the NC State College of Education. “Through this sustained support, we hope to build a leadership pipeline of teacher leaders that will stay in their districts and become early literacy instructional leaders in their schools and communities.”

In addition to Grifenhagen, the Wolfpack WORKS’ project team includes co-principal investigators Dr. Ann Harrington, teaching associate professor of reading education, and Dr. Paola Sztajn, associate dean for research and innovation.

They worked with colleagues from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction and literacy research and teacher education experts to develop 10 evidence-based literacy practices that guided the development of Wolfpack WORKS. The program incorporates blended professional development, literacy-specific coaching and resources that beginning K-2 teachers need to implement effective literacy instruction in their classrooms.


Wolfpack WORKS employs 20 literacy coaches who work weekly with the beginning teachers either in-person or via web-based tools. Wolfpack WORKS also provides focused professional development workshops delivered both online and face-to-face, and reading interventionists help the beginning teachers manage reading assessments and implement reading interventions in classrooms.

“Our Wolfpack WORKS literacy coaches have been accomplishing so much with the beginning teachers with whom they have been working. They are seeing many positive changes in the teachers’ classroom literacy instruction,” Harrington said. “The teachers with whom we are working are required to implement a variety of literacy programs in their respective districts. Our coaches have learned ways to help the teachers implement these programs and provide additional instruction designed to meet the literacy needs of the children in these classrooms.”

The new $12.26 million grant to support Wolfpack WORKS from DPI is the largest that faculty at the NC State College of Education have received since records have been kept, topping the four-year, $10,863,040 grant received from the John M. Belk Endowment last summer to establish the Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research.

“Our faculty have now received two grants exceeding $10 million in less than a year to support projects that work to improve educational outcomes for all North Carolinians,” Danowitz said. “These grants are the result of our faculty and staff’s tireless dedication and commitment to our land-grant mission. I also think these grants reflect confidence in the NC State College of Education’s ability to address critical statewide problems like early literacy.”