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Author Archive for Mike McGrath

Mike McGrath is editor of the National Civic Review.

More than 150 Cities, Counties Pledge to Make Early Reading an Urgent Priority

The response has been overwhelming. We’ve gotten more than 150 letters of intent to participate in the 2012 All-America City Grade Level Reading Award.  The list includes big cities large and small (L.A., NYC, Chicago, Baltimore, Atlanta, San Francisco, Houston, Seattle) and counties and multi-county areas from 36 states. Two U.S. Territories and D.C. are represented. You can read a press release from the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading here.

Our goal was to get 50 to 55 communities to sign up.  This level of interest has more than surpassed expectations, which suggests that grade-level reading may be an issue whose time has come.  We’ve been working with the National League of Cities and United Way Worldwide, among other groups, to generate interest in this award. It will be given to communities (counties, regions, whatever) that develop the most comprehensive, realistic and sustainable plans for addressing three issues: school readiness, school attendance and summer learning.

A pact between the National Civic League and the foundation-led Campaign for Grade-Level Reading allows these communities to join the Campaign’s network, which will provide assistance throughout the application process and help cities develop community-wide plans for improving reading achievement by the end of third grade. These localities will also be on the radar screen for the Campaign’s 80 foundations and philanthropic donors, who fund early childhood and early learning and literacy projects.

The event will be held June 30-July 2 in Denver, Colorado. We are really looking forward to it.

Grade-Level Reading Success at Morningside Elementary in Brownsville, Texas

Lately I’ve been browsing the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading website, which has a feature called “Bright Spots,” a collection of local success stories about reading programs.

One of those bright spots is Morningside Elementary School in Brownsville, Texas. About 99 percent of the kids are Hispanic. About 99 percent are on the free or reduced-price lunch program (FARM). About 80 percent are Spanish speakers.

This is a demographic that typically haunts the less- than-excellent categories of statewide standardized performance tests. Not at Morningside. Quoting from the website:

“During exam time at Morningside Elementary, big posters appear with a simple message: 90%. ‘I expect everyone to get at least 90 percent on the test,’ says Principal Dolores Cisneros Emerson. Ambitious? Yes, but consider that 100 percent of Morningside third graders — virtually all from low-income families —were reading at grade level on the state assessment test last year, and 55 percent were commended for having no more than three questions wrong. Emerson expects excellence from Morningside students, no matter where they come from. Benchmarking, regrouping, individualized instruction, tutorials, and relentless optimism get results.”

“It’s true,” said Morningside Principal Delores Cisneros Emerson, when I asked her about the bright spot description. “We’re awesome. Let me tell you. We’re the best.”

The school uses the aforementioned benchmarking to determine individual strengths and weaknesses. Kids who are performing poorly are placed in smaller sized classes and meet with an “interventionist” to work on skills.

The school has regular tutorials, three days a week in the fall and spring, to help kids who are not doing well and kids who could be doing better with a little push. Ten times a year the school has tutorials on Saturdays to make sure the kids get enough time with the teachers.

2012 AAC Grade Level Reading Award Webinar

Tune in to a webinar for the 2012 All-America City Grade-Level Reading Award hosted by the United Way, the National League of Cities, the National Civic League and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.  Part 1 of the webinar will be September 20 at 2:00 pm EDT.  Part 2 of the webinar, featuring local perspectives on the benefits of the All-America City Awards will be Oct 3 at 2:00 pm EDT.  For more information link here.

Here are some other useful resources for those interested in finding out more about the AAC GLR awards.

2012 AAC Letter of Intent

Sample Letter of Intent (Be patient. It takes a minute to load the Word document.)

Frequently asked questions

Campaign for Grade Level Reading Backgrounder

Guidelines for Mayors

Guidelines for Community-based Organizations

Guidelines for Business Leaders

Campaign for Grade Level Reading Video

Archived Webinar Presentation (PDF) on AAC 2012

Eden, North Carolina’s Higher Education Initiative

Originally posted on the State of the Re:Union website:

Everyone knows how important education is for the economic prospects of a community or region. But who would have thought that low education attainment levels would lead to a scarcity of supermarkets?

Eden, a town of about 16,000 in Rockingham County, North Carolina, found this out the hard way in 2005, when one of the community’s few groceries closed and the locals got up a petition asking a supermarket chain to open a new store. They already had a site picked out and gathered around 2000 signatures. But the supermarket chain took a pass on Eden. The reason: the percentage of residents with college degrees—about 10.8 percent—was considered too low.

The activists merged with an existing community group to form the Eden Education Foundation, and later, broadening their focus, the Rockingham County Education Foundation. Working with the University of North Carolina, the group brought in two new college counselors to split their time between four county high schools advising kids who had never seen themselves as potential college grads.

Richmond, Indiana Third Grade Reading Academy

In 2009, Richmond won an All-America City Award from the National Civic League for outstanding civic accomplishments. The Third Grade Reading Academy was one of the successful local programs highlighted in their application for the award.

Jointly funded by the school district now, the academy is in its fourth year, and word of its success has spread. Two communities in Canada are now using it as a model for their summer reading programs, although they are using a different name, the Reading University. “They can call it anything they want to,” says Vic Jose, one of the academy founders, “as long as they are helping third graders reach their potential.”

Here is a blog post I did on the reading academy for State of the Re:Union. And here is Jeff’s more recent video highlighting the program.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading – Richmond, Indiana from Jeffrey Hatcher on Vimeo.

The 2012 All-America City Awards will have a special focus on community reading programs. Find out more by linking here.

Jeff’s Video on the 2011 Awards program

All-America City Awards 2011 from Jeffrey Hatcher on Vimeo.

Reviving Route 40: Lakewood, Colorado

This is my latest post on the State of the Re: Union Website:

I have a fondness for old business routes, motel rows, kitschy gift shops, Western-themed diners and gas stations that sell Jackalope post cards.

Lakewood, Colorado’s section of Route 40 (also known as West Colfax) was once known as “Gateway to the Rockies.” If you were a traveler in the 1950s and you were looking for a tourist motel, an authentic Russian steam bath or a prefabricated diner built in New Jersey and shipped out West by rail, Route 40 was your bet.

Route 40’s heyday ended with the completion of the federal Interstate Highway System, one of the most expensive and consequential public works programs in the history of the world. Business districts dried up overnight, along with many a Main Street, USA. It’s what used to be called progress.

Media Coverage in South Bend

South Bend Mayoral Assistant Tom Price penned this opinion piece about local coverage of the All-America City win.

NCL Announces Grade Level Reading Award

The National Civic League is adding its support to national efforts to address a persistent challenge in education: increasing the number of low-income children reading at grade level by the end of third grade.

Educators and researchers have long recognized the importance of mastering reading by the end of third grade, yet two-thirds of U.S. schoolchildren are not reaching that benchmark. And children who don’t read by the end of third grade and live in poverty are six times more likely to fail to graduate from high school.

In 2012, the All-America City Awards will focus on communities that work to develop strategies for locally-owned community solutions in the three areas that have real potential to drive improvements in grade-level reading: school readiness, attendance and summer learning.

On June, 15, 2011, NCL announced its partnership with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a national coalition of funders, business and community stakeholders. The Campaign’s goal is to increase by 50 percent the number of low-income children reading on grade level in 3rd grade in at least a dozen states during the next ten years.

We are asking communities to sign a letter of an intent demonstrating their willingness to participate in the 2012 All-America City Grade Level Reading Award program.

Oct 31 Webinar on the AAC-GLR Process

Nov. 17 Webinar on AAC-GLR

For an invitation to apply for the 2012 award, click here.

For answers to frequently asked questions, link here.

For a sample letter of intent link here.

For more information on the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, click here.

All-America City Slideshow

Jeff Hatcher, our Pforzheimer fellow/new media specialist, made this great slide show of the festivities in Kansas City.

Untitled from Jeffrey Hatcher on Vimeo.

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