Tupelo/Lee County selected as a Pacesetter community by Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Names 18 Pacesetter Communities that Demonstrate Early School Success

WASHINGTON, D.C., JULY 21, 2022 – The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR) announced its 2021–22 Pacesetter Communities that exemplify best practices in one or more of the seven “Must Do Priorities” for Early School Success.

The announcement occurred during GLR Week, which is an annual week-long series of virtual events that spotlight how dozens of states are working to advance early school success and accelerate equitable learning recovery.

The selection process began when 132 peer reviewers completed 604 reviews of 72 stories that were self-nominated from 35 communities in 12 states. Then, an internal panel reviewed the finalist stories and identified the Pacesetters from the group.

The reviewers made their choices based on the communities’ ability to accomplish the following that demonstrates early school success:

  • Stop playing catch-up: Ensure that fewer children start school so far behind.
  • End chronic absence: Don’t let students fall further behind during the school year.
  • Reverse the summer slide: Enable struggling and striving readers to make progress instead of losing ground.
  • Address health-related challenges: Healthy development is key to early academic success.
  • Equip parents to succeed: Parents are brain builders, first teachers and tutors, strong advocates and best coaches.
  • Advance grade-level reading and math: Start early, align and integrate.
  • Slow learning loss and accelerate equitable learning recovery: Fast track access to the internet, tutors and out-of-school learning.

The peer reviewers used a 1–5 scale to rate each of the stories in three specific areas:

  1. Substantial & Effective – How well did it work at what scale?
  2. Sustainable – How likely is it to persist and grow?
  3. Replicable – How easy is it for others to adopt/adapt?

“Our focus is on finding the bright spots and silver linings that highlight how dozens of states are working to advance early school success and accelerate equitable learning recovery. Front and center are the Pacesetter Communities that illuminate all the great work that has happened this past year,” says Ralph Smith, managing director of CGLR. “In these communities we found a common spirit for acknowledging the challenges and then developing creative and effective solutions that fit their local needs. We applaud the civic leaders and local funders whose time, talent, energy and imagination have fueled progress in these Pacesetter Communities.”

The Campaign congratulates the following communities and highlights the stories they submitted as part of their successful effort to make significant observable progress in one or more of the impact areas:

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

  • Lessons from a Natural Disaster Amid COVID: Nearly 40,000 library cards were created that allowed students to take advantage of online resources and print resources for pick up available through the Metro Library Network.

Des Moines, Iowa

  • United to Thrive: New strategic framework changed the education work, creating two distinct focus areas: Early Childhood Success, which targets birth to age five and Education Success, which targets pre-kindergarten to high school graduation.

Grinnell, Iowa

  • GEP Coordinates AmeriCorps Partnership So Summer Programs Can Do More Together: It meant the summer programs were able to combine to provide full-day care for 143 families in need. Children were able to interact with smaller student-to-adult ratios, receive high-dosage tutoring, and interact with familiar faces across multiple programs.
  • Grinnell Partners Make Use of Hybrid and Online Programming to Reach More Families: Though many places returned to in-person activities over the summer months, it seems clear that hybrid and online programming will be a consistent part of the future of schooling and outreach.
  • GEP Collaborative Effort Brings Internet Access to Students During Remote Learning and Beyond in Rural Iowa Town: Covered the cost of 60 Wi-Fi hotspots in addition to the home Wi-Fi for 20 more families will help eliminate barriers for many students.

Indian River County, Florida

  • The Seven “Must Do” Priorities to Build an Early Literacy Culture in Our Moonshot Community: Comprised of over 100 nonprofits, philanthropists, business owners, the school district, concerned citizens, medical and social service leaders maintained a steadfast focus on the following CGLR’s seven key areas “must do” priorities for early school success.
  • Our CGLR Keepers — How a Systems-Change Community/School District Partnership is Building Sustainability in our Early Literacy Moonshot Community: “Keepers” are built off of leveraging existing relationships resulting from having systems-level problem- solving thinkers who will lead the charge and remove the barriers in order to be “best by kids.”
  • Transformational Leadership Cleared the Path for the “Must Have Assurances” for Early Literacy Success: Led by transformative systems change, which propels them closer to literacy goal; systems-level change organization now includes government officials and private businesses.

Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

  • Implementation of an Online Preschool Option: The results were extremely positive as 93% of students in the pilot entered school on the first day ready for Kindergarten.
  • Lehigh Valley Read’s Building Home Libraries Initiative: Since the onset of the pandemic, it has distributed more than 7,500 books across the area.

Marshalltown, Iowa

  • Attendance: A Community Approach to Missed Instruction: Strength-based, family-driven approach led to improved attendance for 77% of the families identified with attendance needs.

Miami-Dade County, Florida

  • The Children’s Trust Book Club: In the first three months of expansion (July– September), membership grew from nearly 4,100 3-year-olds to 21,500 children under age five.

New York City, New York

  • Investing in the Summer and the Power of Partnerships: Summer Rising 2021 served over 190,000 students across 760 schools in seven weeks of programming.
  • Post Pandemic Keepers: Food insecurity is rampant within family population and based on the exceptional feedback and response to food boxes provided during the pandemic, the initiative will continue to push for funding for food boxes for families. And to shift with the changing times, they’re also investing in 100% virtual literacy software that can be accessed at home through computers and tablet devices.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  • Digital Engagement: Connecting with families through music; summer learning workshop; and toolkit to promote on-time school attendance.

Roanoke, Virginia

  • Reversing the Summer Slide with Learning Kits: Including the summer 2020 kits, distributed over 13,000 learning kits in just over a year.

San Antonio, Texas

  • Bexar County’s Children’s Agenda — Our Community’s Road Map to Early Childhood Success: Worked with Early Matters San Antonio; Family Services; Head Start, Department of Human Services, City of San Antonio; KLRN – PBS Television Station; and Pre-K 4 SA
  • Address the Digital Divide During COVID-19 to Promote Early School Success: Worked with City of San Antonio; Edgewood Independent School District; Harlandale Independent School District; San Antonio Housing Authority; San Antonio Independent School District; Texas A&M – San Antonio; and The University of Texas at San Antonio.
  • Improving Early School Success for Our Unhoused Students: Video

Southeast Mississippi, Mississippi

  • Amidst COVID-19, Afterschool Program Beats the Summer Slide: Students completed 524 reading assignments and grade average was 86%.
  • Springfield, Massachusetts
  • Equipping Families with Skills, Strategies and 30,000 Books: Over 30 organizations are tapped into the work because of their volunteer experiences, and 100% of volunteers want to volunteer again.

St. Louis, Missouri

  • Listening and Learning from our Community to Write our Collective Impact Strategic Plan: Convened seven focus groups of families and educators, met with superintendents, nonprofits, library systems, and city and county officials and also convened 125 stakeholders to determine the specific reading proficiency needs in St. Louis and the root causes.

Story County, Iowa

  • Creating a Literacy-Rich Environment: The Raising Readers Room at a local mall has begun to improve the program’s visibility and the team’s reach for raising awareness the importance of literacy and out-of-school learning programs.
  • STARS Shines for Story County Reads: Research-based, focused outcomes, and employs a structured curriculum, daily tips, coaching, technology, and community training to bring each element together.

Suncoast (Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota Counties), Florida

  • Addressing the Summer and COVID Slides Through Community Collaboration: 100% of students demonstrating an increase in skill level or maintaining the same skill level; the school district was able to confirm this impressive impact using iReady data that revealed that 84% of students who participated in the Great Futures Academy showed growth in their academic placement.
  • Empowering Parents Leads to Student Success: Among the children of the parents who participated in Parent Success Programs, 70% of the students tested on or above grade level as reported through iReady test data.
  • THIS BOOK IS COOL! Webisodes Library and Weekly Engagement – Promoting Summer Learning: Centerpiece of the program is a series of 100 webisodes designed to encourage a love of reading.

Tupelo/Lee County, Mississippi

  • Childcare Center Partnerships Key to Early School Success: Regular meetings between the kindergarten teachers and pre-k teachers are held; the kindergarten teachers provide information about what children need to be able to do before entering school and examples of ways to help.

Vicksburg/Warren County, Mississippi

  • Post-COVID Educational Enhancement Program in Vicksburg, Mississippi: Collaboration and Community: The program proved to be immensely effective: on average, each student gained 4 months of growth, with some gaining as much as 20 percentile points.
  • Kitchen Table Classroom: The school district has received great feedback and they plan to begin including different community members (the mayor, law enforcement officials, veterinarians, etc.) in future videos.

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