K-3 Achievement

Reading proficiency by third grade is the most important predictor of high school
graduation and career success. Yet every year, more
than 80% of low-income children miss this crucial milestone.

Building a strong base early is critical to future academic success. During the formative kindergarten through 3rd grade years, children develop significant foundational skills and an essential interest in learning. Within our K-3 Achievement focus area, we seek partners that enable students to perform on or above grade level in core subjects by third grade, beginning with the kindergarten year.



We support organizations that are measuring their results and incorporate evidence-based strategies. In the focus area of K-3 achievement, we are particularly focused on the growth of students, along with improved test scores. Our Outcomes Sought document summarizes our priorities and is a basis for discussion with grantees. We hope to engage in a dialogue with grantseekers about their approach and use of data.



At the local level in Mecklenburg County, the Foundation’s goal, in partnership with Read Charlotte, is to double the percentage of third graders reading on grade level from 39% in 2015 to 80% by 2025.

Complementing our local strategy, at the North Carolina state level, the Foundation focuses on research, policy, and best practices to increase third grade reading proficiency. A priority is ensuring that all elementary school teachers have the knowledge and skill to teach reading to all learners.


  • Individualize support through evidence-based tutoring
  • Stop the summer slide through summer learning opportunities
  • Improve teacher knowledge and instruction in evidence-based practices
  • Improve family and caregiver knowledge and access to supports
  • Ensure systems and policies are research-informed and support students, families, and educators in reaching a third grade proficiency goal


The Foundation remains committed to the work of Read Charlotte, which it played a key role in founding in 2015, and looks to support strong policy and system practices at the state level aligned with reading research. The Foundation’s current Impact Plan, announced in 2019, named a new, additional strategic issue of equitable access to effective teachers, to hone the Teaching and Leadership focus area, much like the concentration on early literacy hones the K-3 Achievement focus area.


  • Reading proficiency by third grade is the most important predicator of high school graduation and career success.
  • 80% of African American and Hispanic fourth grade boys in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are unable to read proficiently, according to the 2019 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP).
  • In 2019, less than a third (30.4%) of North Carolina economically disadvantaged third graders were reading at College & Career Ready levels, according to EOG testing.
  • In the past two decades, despite significant effort, investment and attention, North Carolina has only increased by 9 percentage points the portion of 4th graders who are at or above proficient in reading, from 27% in 1998 to 36% in 2019, according to the NAEP.
  • 95% of elementary students, regardless of background, are cognitively capable of learning to read when they receive sufficient direct instruction on the foundational skills of reading.