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May 4, 2015

The Numbers Are Telling

Problems can become opportunities when the right people come together.” – Robert South

Reading proficiency scores both nationally and locally reveal that far too many children, especially low-income students, do not read on grade level. The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading strives to improve these statistics through a communitywide commitment to creating meaningful change in the lives of our community’s children. The first step in achieving this collective aspiration is to understand the current state of reading proficiency in our region.

As reflected in the graph below, regional data show us that by the time students reach 4th grade, 25 percent of Sarasota County students and 42 percent of Manatee County students are reading below proficient levels.

These statistics are not intended to be a comparison, given that the two counties have quite different demographics in areas such as poverty, the number of students eligible for free or reduced lunch, students with disabilities and those whose native language is not English. For example, Manatee County has almost twice the number of “English Language Learners.” The goal of the Suncoast Campaign is to work together, share ideas and partner where possible so that both counties support each other in this endeavor to improve reading proficiency.chart

Data such as these shine a spotlight on the issue and provide us with baseline measures. They also inform our actions by allowing us to see the where (in terms of individual schools), the who (in terms of which students & their demographics), the what (in terms of the defined barriers) and even the how (in terms of using evidence-based strategies) in order to focus our efforts on improving reading proficiency. We also can track our progress to determine whether we are moving the dial on this important issue.

As we collect, analyze and act on this data, we must not lose sight of the fact that behind each figure is a child in need of support. The percentages above represent approximately 3,000 local children who not only require reading assistance, but who also could benefit from a community committed to addressing their life situations on a broader basis. The numbers are telling us we can and must do more for the children in our region, especially those from low-income families. The possibilities are immense.

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