Providence is Named a 2012 All-America City Based on Plan to Improve Third Grade Reading
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Providence is Named a 2012 All-America City Based on Plan to Improve Third Grade Reading

Monday, July 2, 2012

City becomes charter member of national network dedicated to increasing the number of low-income students reading on grade level

Providence was named an All-America City by the National Civic League today based on its ambitious plan to ensure that more children are reading at grade level by the end of third grade.

Chosen from a field of more than 100 entries, Providence's plan was submitted by a community coalition that included the city's Mayor Angel Taveras, Rhode Island Kids Count, Ready to Learn Providence, the Rhode Island education commissioner and other key members of the educational and nonprofit community. The community was one of 14 awardees selected from 32 finalists.

"Early childhood literacy is an important factor to the social and economic wellbeing of Providence," said Mayor Taveras. "It is a priority of my administration to improve reading levels at critical points so that students have the tools they need to excel in our knowledge-based economy."

On Friday, June 29, Mayor Taveras was also honored in a ceremony in Denver, in which Providence was named a PaceSetter by The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Mayor Taveras received the honor for Providence's exemplary leadership and innovation in addressing the vexing challenges that keep many low-income students from learning to read proficiently. The Pacesetter Honors recognize places that are already developing community solutions to the challenges that can undermine early literacy, such as chronic absenteeism, summer learning loss and a lack of school readiness.

"I am proud that Providence, our largest school district and the capital of Rhode Island, is leading the way toward bringing all students up to grade level in reading," said Deborah A. Gist, R.I. Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education and co-chair of the Rhode Island Early Learning Council. "Literacy is the foundation for education success, and to ensure that our students excel at reading comprehension we must prepare our students, beginning in the early years, to be lifelong readers."

Beyond the award contest, Providence's plan makes the city a charter member in the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Communities Network, a national movement of local and state leaders, nonprofits and foundations putting a stake in the ground on third-grade reading. That milestone marks the point when children shift from learning to read and begin reading to learn. Students who haven't mastered reading by then are more likely to get stuck in a cycle of academic failure, drop out of school, and struggle throughout their lives.

The awards are given each year by the National Civic League for outstanding civic accomplishments. Ordinarily, applicants choose their own local projects to showcase, but this year NCL is teaming with the Campaign to encourage community-based partnerships to improve reading proficiency among young students.

"This partnership with the Campaign has been an amazing experience for our All-America City Awards," said Gloria Rubio-Cortes, president of the National Civic League which has sponsored the award for more than 60 years. "We were overwhelmed by the quality, passion and thoughtfulness of all the action plans submitted by more than 100 cities, towns and regions. There is a real and deep commitment to ensuring that our children are prepared to succeed."

The 124 cities and counties in the network, representing 350 school districts with 8 million students, are adopting a collective impact strategy, engaging the full community around the goal of supporting low-income children from birth through third grade.

Providence's efforts to bolster early learning were spurred by two Race to the Top grants and selection by the Annie E. Casey Foundation as the first U.S. city to participate in their new Evidence 2 Success Initiative. To centralize reform strategies and promote collaboration, Mayor Taveras convened the Providence Children and Youth Cabinet, a cross-sector collaborative consisting of public, private, and nonprofit leadership, to improve outcomes for Providence youth from cradle to career.

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