Across the state, 79.2 percent of third-grade students showed they were proficient last year, according to a report presented to the State Board of Education on Thursday.
A total of 12.7 percent of third-grade students were either retained in the third-grade or placed in transitional or accelerated classes. The remaining students were exempt because they are either English Language Learners or have learning disabilities.
Students could be measured by a number of assessments, including End-of-Grade tests. They also could complete a successful portfolio of work. The results are the first of the state's Read to Achieve Program, created by Republican lawmakers in 2012.
The program was established as a way to eliminate social promotion and make sure all students can read by the end of third-grade. A hallmark of law includes summer reading camps for children who do not demonstrate reading proficiency by the end of the school year.
Of the 12,827 students who attended camp this summer, 3,426, or about 27%, were reading proficient by the end of camp.
At Thursday's state Board of Education meeting, board member A.L. Collins expressed some concern, saying that the "biggest issue that these numbers show is the sad reality that, for years, our school systems have not been teaching children how to read."
He also said that the state needs to do more to support schools with high numbers of students living in poverty.
"There's also a wide variety of districts who have double the percentage of the state of children we hold back. Most of those districts appear to be districts that have poverty," he said.
Wake County retained 9.9 percent of its students, while Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Durham Public Schools retained closer to 18 percent.
Republican Senate leader Phil Berger called the results encouraging, but also said that more work could be done.
The state Board of Education is making recommendations to lawmakers on how to improve the Read to Achieve legislation. Ideas include providing more instructional coaches for teachers and creating summer reading camps for younger students.