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Richmond Regional Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

In August, United Way, in partnership with regional school districts, nonprofits, funders, libraries, and universities, launched the Richmond Regional Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, which is aimed at increasing the number of kids in the Greater Richmond & Petersburg region who are reading proficiently by 3rd grade.

Research shows that proficiency in reading by the end of third grade enables students to shift from learning to read to reading to learn, and to master the more complex subject matter they encounter in the fourth grade curriculum. Most students who fail to reach this critical milestone falter in the later grades and often drop out before earning a high school diploma. Yet two-thirds of U.S. fourth graders are not proficient readers, according to national reading assessment data. This disturbing statistic is made even worse by the fact that more than four out of every five low-income students miss this critical milestone.

In the 11 counties United Way serves, nearly 24% of 3rd grade students failed the reading SOL in 2016. In several localities where poverty rates are very high, the pass rate was as low as 61-64%.

Although schools must be accountable for helping all children achieve, providing effective teaching for all children in every classroom every day, the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is based on the belief that schools cannot succeed alone. The work of The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is built around three community solution areas: school readiness, chronic absence, and summer learning loss. Integrated into this framework is also a focus on successful parents as well as the physical, cognitive, and emotional health of children.

The Richmond Regional Campaign for Grade-Level Reading operates via the work of three Collaborative Action Networks (CANs) focused on Literacy, Attendance and School Readiness.

Collaborative action networks define issues at the system level that need to be addressed through policy, awareness, or shared action. They also monitor and disseminate the learning of micro level improvement teams operating at the school or community level.

The Literacy CAN is convened by United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg, with Bridging Richmond serving as the data and continuous improvement partner.

The Attendance CAN is convened by Bridging Richmond with Richmond Public Schools serving as the convening school district.

The School Readiness CAN is convened by Smart Beginnings Greater Richmond with Bridging Richmond serving as the data and continuous improvement partner.

Together we are digging into the drivers of elementary literacy, attendance, and school readiness. We are testing out strategies, using data for continuous improvement, and scaling up practices known to work. It’s very exciting to see so much energy around collective action, coming from people who work in different school districts and agencies, from as far apart as Goochland and Richmond, but who recognize that we are more likely to solve these complex community issues when we unite.

To learn more about the work of the Richmond Regional Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, or to get involved, please contact Rebekah Holbrook, Director of Community Impact: Education, at holbrookr@yourunitedway.org.

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About the Author : Rebekah Holbrook


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