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Exploring Evidence-Based Strategies for Improving Early Reading Development in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)


REL Pacific is working closely with stakeholders in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) to help local educators build their knowledge of evidence-based malleable factors that lead to increased reading proficiency by grade 3. Using research results, data, and best practices, the Partnership is focused on guiding policy and practice to influence outcomes for students, with special consideration given to students from multilingual cultures. Through the exploration of predictive factors in early literacy in the CNMI, REL Pacific hopes to aid stakeholders in identifying supports to improve students' reading performance in grades K–3.

High-Leverage Need

Results from recent national examinations show that many students in the CNMI are not reading at grade level.1 ACT Aspire Reading results from 2016–17 show that 72 percent of grade 3 students in the CNMI fell into the “close” or “need support” reading proficiency levels, while only 13 percent and 5 percent fell into the “ready” and “exceeding” proficiency levels,1 respectively.

Students who do not reach grade-level proficiency by grade 3 have reduced chances of graduating from high school and succeeding in their careers, and tend to score lower on state-wide assessments2 and struggle with developing social and emotional skill competencies.3 In addition, reading proficiency is also proven to affect personal income and a country's overall economic growth.4

REL Pacific Project Support

To support the Partnership's goals, REL Pacific is facilitating a series of training and coaching sessions to help educators in the CNMI determine which indicators and data processes can identify students who are on- and off-track in the early grades. Through these trainings, Partnership members will be able to build their knowledge of the malleable factors that lead to increased grade 3 reading proficiency (such as attendance rates,5 quality pre-school experiences,6 and quality teaching7), identify research-based areas to target support, and contextualize the research to fit the jurisdiction's unique system. In addition, REL Pacific will draw upon research and results to present Partnership members with a range of approaches that other state and school districts have taken to measure and address those malleable factors and improve early reading scores.


Erin D'Amelio

Erin D'Amelio, research associate, provides research and consultation support for a variety of projects under the REL Pacific contract. Erin holds an M.S.Ed. in International Educational Development from University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. in English and French Language from Lafayette college. Contact Erin at or call 1.808.664.8183.

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1 CNMI Public School System (2018). Academic Achievement Report SY 2016–2017. Office of Accountability, Research & Evaluation. Retrieved from

2 Miles, S., & Stipek, D. (2006). Contemporaneous and longitudinal associations between social behavior and literacy achievement in a sample of low-income elementary school children. Child Development, 77(10).

3 Hein, V., Smerdon, B., & Samboldt, M. (2013). Predictors of postsecondary success. Washington, DC: College and Career Readiness and Success Center at American Institutes for Research. Retrieved from default/files/CCRS%20Center_Predictors%20of%20Postsecondary%20Success_final_0.pdf 0B0xPsDFPa_IzakhtQURkaGdTVkE/view.

4 McKinsey & Company. (2009). The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America's Schools. Available at

5 Gove, A., Dombrowski, E., Pressley, J., King, S., & Weatherholt, T. (2018). Persistence and fadeout of preschool participation effects on early reading skills in low- and middle-income countries. Global Education Review, 5(2), 85–109. Retrieved from

6 Yoshikawa, H., Weiland, C., Brooks-Gunn, J., Burchinal, M., Espinosa, L., Gormley, W. T., ... Zaslow, M. (2013, October). Investing in Our Future: The Evidence Base on Preschool. Washington, D.C.: Society for Research in Child Development. Retrieved from

7 Asian Development Bank. (2015). Getting the basics right—Quality primary education in the north Pacific. Manila, Philippines: Asian Development Bank. Retrieved from