Today’s School Spotlight is highlighting a great piece from State of the Re:Union’s contributor Mike McGrath with the National Civic League. This post on education elicited such a positive response, SOTRU would like to share it one more time for your ruminating pleasure.
Sacramento Focuses on Grade-Level Reading
I see that State of the Re:Union has been doing some reporting on Sacramento, California, exploring some of the tough challenges facing the community, so I thought I’d mention that Sacramento is joining the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a national effort to get more low income kids to read at grade level by third grade.
Last month, Mayor Kevin Johnson launched the Sacramento Reads! 3rd Grade Literacy Campaign, one of the largest community-wide reading initiatives in the United States. Currently only about 37 percent of third graders in Sacramento read at grade level. The goal of Sacramento Reads! is for 80 percent of third graders to be reading at grade level by 2020.
Sacramento’s ambitious plan is part of a collaborative effort by dozens of funders and nonprofit partners across the nation known as the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Other communities that have answered the call include New Britain, Connecticut; Springfield, Massachusetts and Los Angeles, California.
The campaign focuses on three preventable causes of the performance gap between low income readers and other students:
• The readiness gap: The fact that many low income kids who show up for school are already behind because they haven’t had as much access to books or high quality pre-kindergarten programs that help prepare students to learn.
• The attendance gap: I’ve already written a blog post about this problem. Research has found that one in 10 kindergarten and first grade students nationwide misses nearly a month of school each year in excused and unexcused absences.
• The summer slide (summer learning loss): Lots of students lose ground over the summer if they are not reading at home or engaged in enrichment programs.
The National Civic League has also joined this nationwide effort. Our part will be to encourage communities to address the reading gap by focusing the 2012 and 2015 All-America City Awards on grade level reading efforts. Ordinarily, the award programs let communities choose the issue areas they want to present to our jury of civic experts at the annual event. In 2012, we’ll be doing things a little differently.
In 2012, the All-America City Award program will be a little different. NCL is asking communities to develop comprehensive plans that focus on the three critical areas identified by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Winners must demonstrate capacity to use data, deploy effective interventions, build strong cross‐sector partnerships, and mobilize public will to improve reading proficiency in the early grades.
Since the late 1990s, NCL has asked All-America City finalist communities to list at least one project that benefitted or engaged young people. Consequently, we’ve had more than a few past winners present reading or literacy projects.
For example: Marietta, Georgia, a winner in 2006, touted “Marietta Reads!” program. Participants selected books from approved lists and are tested on reading comprehension. Students earned points on the basis of the book’s difficulty and test scores. Goals were set for students at each grade level in all the city’s schools, and students earned awards by reaching those goals.
Hollywood, Florida, a winner in 2007, presented its “Born to Read” program, which positioned a fulltime librarian at the Memorial Primary Care Clinic, to interact with each family of young children. New families were given an application for a library card, a resource guide and a first book for the child. Families were given instructions on ways to encourage reading and this is reinforced with every subsequent visit to the clinic.
El Paso, Texas, a winner in 2010 has its annual Día de los Niños/ Día de Los Libros to improve literacy and health awareness in the community. The event involves a free giveaway of books and opportunities for young people to sign up for the Summer Reading Club.
Tupelo, Mississippi, a winner last year, featured two projects from the mayor’s task force on education: “Read Tupelo” which provides a morning of learning for approximately 400 four and five year olds, including art activities, a music demonstration with various instruments, and story time presented by local officials and volunteers. Another initiative provides every baby born at North Mississippi Medical Center’s Women’s Hospital a copy of the book, Goodnight Moon.
Our hope is that more and more communities will do what Sacramento is doing and organize community-based efforts to address the reading gap. (Another difference in 2012 is that the campaign and its partners are offering technical assistance and peer learning opportunities to cities that participate in the award process.) To qualify, communities must submit a letter of intent by October 14.
Because (thankfully) we are all different, we’d like to hear what your comments and thoughts are. Do you know of a unique school program that works for your community? If so, please, let us know.