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Sacramento’s proposal to improve third grade reading selected as finalist for national award | Community

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Sacramento’s proposal to improve third grade reading selected as finalist for national award
Sacramento’s proposal to improve third grade reading selected as finalist for national award

BY: Rachel Minnick

Sacramento, CA – Innovative plan to ensure that low-income students are reading on grade-level by the end of third grade was picked from more than 100 applicants.

An ambitious plan to ensure that more children in the City of Sacramento are reading at grade level by the end of third grade has been chosen as a finalist for the All-America City Award, sponsored each year by the National Civic League.

The plan was submitted by a community coalition convened by the Sacramento READS! Literacy by Third Grade Campaign. The coalition includes the Office of Mayor Kevin Johnson, five local school districts (Natomas Unified, Robla Elementary, Twin Rivers Unified, Sacramento City Unified and Elk Grove Unified), Reading Partners, Sacramento START, volunteers, the Sacramento Public Library and First 5 Sacramento. Sacramento is one of 32 finalists selected through a peer review process from a field of more than 100 entries across the country. Winners will be announced July 2 in Denver, Colorado.

Sacramento’s plan was also selected as a finalist for a Pacesetter award which recognizes communities who are setting the pace in specific areas targeting grade level reading proficiency.

Sacramento’s plan makes the city a charter member in a national movement of local leaders, nonprofits and foundations putting a stake in the ground on third-grade reading.

"Third grade is the critical age where kids go from learning to read, to reading to learn," said Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

Students who haven't mastered reading by then are more likely to get stuck in a cycle of academic failure, drop out of school, and struggle throughout their lives. In the City of Sacramento, 37% of students can read on grade level by the end of third grade.

“When we think about Sacramento, our literacy rates are not what they need to be. We have far too many of our children that are not reading at grade level,” Johnson said. “This is our commitment: We want to be the first city in the country where we achieve literacy for all third graders. It’s big, it’s bold and we’re very excited."

The 124 cities and counties involved in the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Community Network are adopting a collective impact strategy, engaging the full community around the goal of supporting low income children from birth through third grade. The plans involve schools but acknowledge that they alone cannot address the myriad problems that keep children from learning to read. The strategies include ensuring that children arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed, attend school regularly and keep learning through the summer months.

In its first year, Sacramento READS! has established formal agreements with all local school districts serving the city and currently partners with 14 public schools, serving primarily low-income children.

Tutoring programs were launched at nine of these schools and additional volunteers were recruited for the other five school sites, operated by Reading Partners, an established, evidence-based tutoring program.

As a charter member of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Community Network, Sacramento will have access to a Promising Practices Clearinghouse, an online help desk, peer-learning opportunities, meetings with national experts and policymakers, and a foundation registry designed to expand and replicate successful programs.

“This is really a community-wide effort that’s actively engaging volunteers and organizations at all levels, and so far, they’ve really stepped up,” said campaign director, Nikolas Howard.

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