Editor’s Note: Judy Polivy, a Mind in the Making Master Facilitator, was Parent Resource Center Liaison at Fairfax County Public Schools before recently moving to the Suncoast region.
Having just moved here from Northern VA, where I worked for the Fairfax County School System, I am eagerly learning about my new home. In February and March of 2017, I was able to get a sneak peak of the Suncoast region when I co-facilitated the Mind in the Making Facilitator Institute for the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. I was taken by the energy and passion of the participants, and meeting and sharing with all of them during the three days of training made my move a bit easier.
I was able to reunite with the Mind in the Making facilitators from my session and meet many others who had trained during a previous Facilitator Institute at a recent Mind in the Making quarterly meeting. As Beth Duda, Director of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading gave an update, I learned even more about the community I now call home. I was surprised to learn that 40% of all third graders in the Suncoast region are unable to read proficiently by the end of third grade. I was also surprised to learn the highest incidence of chronic absence in both the School District of Manatee County and Sarasota County Schools occurs in Kindergarten. We know that children cannot show much academic progress when they are absent from school. What many people don’t realize is these early absences correlate with reading difficulties and poor attendance patterns in later years. The effects of poor attendance are particularly pronounced among low-income children, who need more time in the classroom to master reading and are less likely to have access to resources outside of school to help them catch up. Unfortunately, low-income children are four times more likely to be chronically absent. I believe we need to get children interested in school when they are primed for learning. The preschool and kindergarten/early learning years are critical in a child’s outlook toward education and their overall interest in being successful.
I also learned that the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is working with both school districts to reduce the percentage of chronically absent students. I was impressed to learn 44,000 children created posters for the “Every Day Counts” Attendance Awareness Poster Contest. What fun the winning students and their families must have had when they attended a spring training game featuring the Pittsburgh Pirates or Baltimore Orioles. I imagine some of the winning children had never gone to a live game before – how exciting for them.
I believe the potential for kindergartners’ learning progress through better attendance is at our doorsteps. I’m excited to join the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s efforts in communicating the message, “Every Day Counts!” I look forward to meeting more and more people as I facilitate Mind in the Making workshops in my new home – the beautiful Suncoast of Florida.