Editor’s Note: As managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading since 2010, Ralph Smith has been forging consensus around ensuring that children reach the critical developmental milestone of reading on grade-level by the end of third grade.
The Campaign is grounded in research highlighting the alarming numbers of children who are not reading proficiently by third grade and the long-term consequences for society. The following post is from the forward to the recent publication, Towards Bigger Outcomes: Taking on the Health Determinants of Early School Success
Almost 100 of the more than 285 communities participating in the Grade-Level Communities Network are reporting progress toward at least one of the community solutions indicators: readiness, attendance and summer learning. These reports affirm a premise that undergirds many of the strategic choices of our Campaign for Grade-Level Reading: Once mobilized, the time, talent, energy and sweat equity present in local communities can make a meaningful difference in finding solutions for even the biggest problems. Furthermore, the number, detail and geographic distribution of those progress reports should serve as an antidote to the paralyzing combination of cynicism, complacency, and despair. For this reason alone, the progress reported is applause-worthy.
The applause morphs from celebration to exhortation when confronted by the distance between what it takes to “move the needle” and what is required to “close the gap” between children from low-income families and their more affluent peers. Double-digit gaps in reading proficiency persist and co-exist with good progress in every state and every Grade-Level Reading (GLR) community, including those reporting the most progress. And it is this reality that drives our determination to pursue “bigger outcomes” for the next chapter of the GLR Campaign.
This more robust “bigger outcomes” strategy will build upon the successes we have to attain the results we want. “Bigger outcomes” will see us doubling down on readiness, attendance and summer learning; lifting up parent success and healthy child development as critical “determinants” of early school success; prioritizing children and families in public housing and vulnerable populations such as children in foster care; promoting systemic solutions to the data challenges; and employing technology and technology-enhanced platforms to assist with all of the above. We fully expect that each of these components will bring its own promise and pitfalls as we learn from and with the GLR communities and our partners as well as practitioners, researchers and experts.
Campaign for Grade-Level Reading