Springfield has been recognized as an All-America City, chosen from a field of more than 100 entries across the country based on its Reading Success by 4th Grade community-wide initiative. The recognition is given each year to recognize outstanding examples of community problem solving, civic engagement and collaboration between the public, profit and nonprofit sectors.
This year, the award had a special focus: applicants were asked to develop comprehensive plans to bridge the reading gap between at-risk students and other learners. The awardees named recently in Denver were among 124 communities that met to launch a network dedicated to improving early literacy and bridging the performance gap among young readers nationwide.
The conference/awards celebration emerged from a partnership between the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, the National Civic League, the National League of Cities, U.S. Conference of Mayors, and United Way Worldwide.
The RS4G plan was submitted by a broad community coalition that included early education providers, Springfield Public Schools, the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, United Way of Pioneer Valley, the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation and representatives of the business and nonprofit communities.
Pittsifeld was also named an All-America City at the Denver meeting.
Beyond the award contest, Springfield'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. That milestone marks the point when children shift from learning to read and begin reading to learn. 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.
According to Sally Fuller, Project Manager of the READ! initiative, "Our work on improving early literacy in Springfield began with the premise that 'to become a successful reader by fourth grade, every Springfield child needs support from family, school and community.' Our goal is to improve reading proficiency by the end of third grade from 39% proficient in 2012 to 80% reading proficiently by the year 2016. We are gratified that the work we are doing on the ground has been recognized by the National Civic League with our community's designation as an All-America City."
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.