I believe that you see something that you want to get done, you cannot give up, and you cannot give in. — Representative John Lewis, Civil Rights Leader
A powerful statement and a call to action and perseverance as we lead and act intentionally on behalf of our children, our future.
As our current climate underscores, we continue to bear witness to inequities, bias, and systemic barriers that impede outcomes for many of our community members, especially our children.
For this movement, the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, to succeed beyond our lifetimes, every single one of us will need to banish our ego and long-held traditions and assumptions to ensure a more perfect union for our children’s future.
Although it is not a new concept to invest in early education and grade-level reading success… as a result of consistent messaging, the questions and intentions are no longer “Should I invest?” but “How do I invest in the best/most promising work?” What will ensure gains, and how do I effectively come alongside our families, neighbors, early learning centers, schools, and the community?
And the all-important question:
How do I know my investment will last, change the future now and for generations?
It is this question that we have been addressing in Manatee County from the beginning. We continue to invest time, energy, thought leadership, and ourselves in a systems-level approach to generational success—ensuring partnerships that thrive well beyond any immediate initiatives or programs and lay a foundation for our future. And, we are NOT giving up. NOT giving in.
As we shared last year, our community has come together to create The Big Plan, Community United for our Children’s Future. Focused on ten schools and their attendance zones with the highest concentration of school children and families in Manatee County.
In the 2017–18 school year, 75% of the 3rd graders in these schools did not test as reading on grade level. That’s 742 students. Although in the following year, school grades improved, as did some grade-level reading achievements (and we all celebrate that!), they still showed us that we had a long way to go.
In 2020, we found ourselves amid a pandemic. Although we know progress was being made, we do not have access to “feel good” data. The data points that might indicate that we are in the right direction do not take into account “surprises.” However, they show us this one moment in time, not yet reflective of the years of work that it takes to undo patterns and build institutional and community trust.
What I can say is that “we are arriving!” Every year, we deepen and strengthen how we work together. Leadership from five community-spanning organizations requires sacrifice, institutional change, and a turned outward approach. It is transformational.
Trust allowed us to quickly pivot and come together to support one another and our community—ensuring telehealth services, mortgage and rental assistance, digital access, food, and so much more. Without credit-seeking or hesitation, we teamed up and served together to ensure that we do not risk losing a generation of children.
I think it is important to share several key milestones in how each of us engages in this movement:
Written SCGLR into their Children’s Services Strategic Plan
Ensured alignment of resources by developing GIS map
Invested in Efforts to Outcomes for the Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County, which allows us to track the success of quality early care through pre-kindergarten
Turned Outward with their approach to Library Services to ensure local access
Aligned with RECAP (Racially and Ethnically Centralized Areas of Poverty), which ensures additional resources in the attendance zones of Samoset and Palm View, our pilot schools
Invested in Summer Learning at Samoset Elementary
All that said, we have engaged neighborhood leadership, Manatee Chamber of Commerce, Manatee Education Foundation, Anna Maria Oyster Bar, nonprofit Strategic Community Partners, among so many others.
Since we recognize the power of education to create a more equitable future for our children, how will we shore up our foundation?
Where do we go from here?
Let me remind you of our target:
Increase by half the number of children reading on grade level by the time they leave third grade in ten schools of focus by 2026.
Our two pilot schools are Samoset Elementary and Palm View Elementary. We will add in three more in the new year.
We will continue to ensure a firm foundation for generational success by:
What can you do?
And our mantra is:
“We see something that we want to get done. We will not give up. We will not give in.”
Join the movement.