Grade Level Reading Leaders Gather To Learn, Improve

In 2010, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released a special Kids Count report entitled, “Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters.” That report, which documented the significant negative effects associated with not achieving reading proficiency by the end of third grade and the large numbers of children who were not meeting that milestone, led to the launch of a nationwide, decade-long campaign to move the needle on grade-level reading proficiency.

The national Campaign is a collaborative effort of foundations, nonprofits partners, business leaders, government agencies, states, and communities across the country to ensure that more children in low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, career and active citizenship. In its early years, the Campaign focused largely on communities, but as those communities have grown in number and reach, more statewide efforts – like the one here in Georgia – have emerged.

On March 24 through 25, leaders of statewide grade-level reading campaigns in Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Washington state joined together with national training and technical assistance providers at a Campaign convening in Georgia. Get Georgia Reading Campaign leaders were invited to present our shared common agenda and how the Campaign is functioning as a platform to nurture cross-sector, cross-agency partnerships and collaborations designed to ensure that all children in Georgia will be on a path to third grade reading proficiency by 2020.

First Lady Sandra Deal welcomed attendees and Pat Willis of Voices for Georgia’s Children and Jim Neal, formerly of North Highland Consulting, shared the history of the Campaign and the roles it is playing.

Maria Fernandez, manager of the Department of Public Health’s newly launched Early Brain Development Initiative, described the rapidly-expanding Talk With Me Baby initiative and the ways that DPH is embracing early language acquisition as a public health imperative.

Erica Baker, Medicaid planning and strategy manager at the Department of Community Health, explained how Georgia is looking at “access” in a comprehensive manner that includes awareness, affordability, accessibility, availability, accommodation, and acceptability. Tabitha Press, the K-12 Liaison in the University System of Georgia reinforced this notion by describing how USG views third grade reading proficiency as a critical first step to ensuring students have access to college.

Garry McGiboney, from the Georgia Department of Education, reminded the group of the importance of learning climate and trusting adult-child relationships by sharing a story about a troubled student he met with years ago.

Kristin Bernard and Martha Ann Todd joined together to describe how Bright from the Start: Department of Early Care and Learning and the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement are working together to ensure that teachers across the birth through third grade continuum are able to effectively support student learning and development.

Georgia’s leaders have truly stepped up to the challenge outlined in the “Early Warning” report, and their leadership and innovative collaboration are attracting the attention of education stakeholders from across the country.