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October 22, 2015

Community-Level Change Is Not in the ‘What’ but in the ‘How’

Clarity. Structure. Measures. The world would be a better place if we had all of these, all of the time. Or would it? As we continue to move forward with the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, the urge to find our footing and say we will create “this” and establish “that” in order to get “here” is strong. We all want to see results. We want to see action. We want something or someone to point to –something to show that we are making progress and getting things done.

But if talk is a type of action, how do we show results? Change happens at the speed of trust — but how do we measure progress? As we begin to see traditions, standards, systems and thoughts differ from what we, our community, have been able to trust in and rely upon for years, where is our “go to”? How do we make the important shift from focusing on “what” we are doing to “how” are we doing it?

Here is the challenge: 49% of our third graders in Manatee County and 40% of children in our region are not reading on grade level by the end of third grade.

This is a critical milestone where students move from learning to read to reading to learn. Nationally, four out of five children from low-income families do not reach this critical milestone. We did not come to this crossroads overnight. It took us years to get here, and we all had a role. It stands to reason that it will take years, and all of us, to create opportunities for change.

Though we have begun to take tangible steps forward (Graduation Enhancement Technician positions in Manatee County, the region-wide attendance awareness poster contest funded by The Patterson Foundation, and community learning and sharing sessions with experts – just to name a few) we cannot and must not rush to “program” our way forward at the expense of the time it takes to build trust, educate ourselves about opportunities, learn our community’s strengths (and weaknesses), and find the fuzziness of cooperation.

With true cooperation, each effort contributes to the efforts of others. Fuzziness is where we find overlap and are able to resist the urge to say, “my part has been accomplished, now yours begins.” Creating a movement is not a point in time. It is a process.

While we continue to become a community of opportunity makers (people who are able to step into one another’s shoes and show how this effort impacts their own lives) let’s keep in mind the intent of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading:

Ensure that all of our children are reading on grade-level by the end of third grade by addressing:

1. School Readiness
2. Attendance
3. Summer Learning

These three community-solution areas are made all the more powerful with strong parent and family engagement as well as opportunities to enhance the health and wellbeing of our youngest readers.

This is a community imperative, if addressed thoughtfully and cooperatively that will change the trajectory for our children’s lives and our community as a whole.

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