RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — North Carolina students in grades K-3 made more progress on a key reading test than students did in other states, the state Department of Public Instruction said Thursday.

A report from DPI also says a higher percentage of those students across the state met or exceeded the benchmark score this year compared to 2021-22.

There were roughly 454,000 students assessed at the start of the current school year, and the number of them meeting or surpassing that benchmark was nearly 28,000 higher than there were last year.

Those results also indicate fewer students this year were so far below those benchmarks that they needed what DPI calls intensive intervention.

DPI says students across demographic groups showed improvement, with white, Black and Hispanic students all outpacing similar groups in the same grades a year earlier.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt says those results indicate the effectiveness of a two-year professional development program called Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling, or LETRS — which all K-3 teachers across the state will complete during the coming years.

“Even with LETRS training still a work in progress, we’re seeing significant gains,” Truitt said. “Teachers across the state are working hard to help students become proficient readers by grounding their instruction in the science of reading. They deserve to be commended for taking on this often very difficult and demanding work of learning themselves how to teach differently.”

The results also show North Carolina students in all four grades made larger gains than students taking the same assessment in other states. For example, North Carolina first-graders met the benchmark at a rate 10 percentage points higher this year than they did last school year, compared to a difference of 3 points in other states.

Those results were compared to 1.6 million K-3 students across the country whose literacy skills are measured with the same mCLASS assessment, said its provider, Amplify.