During the 2017 GLR Week in Denver, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading inducted four individuals into its Council of Champions
Rhonda H. Lauer serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of Foundations, Inc., a national nonprofit organization committed to improving the quality of education for all children. Ms. Lauer has guided Foundations' strategic growth over the past 20 years, focusing on three critical areas of impact: improving schools and school systems, transforming out-of-school time, and engaging families and communities in education.
Under Ms. Lauer’s leadership, Foundations has convened the annual Beyond School Hours® National Education Conference for the past two decades. The conference offers educators the tools and knowledge they need to transform their students into lifelong readers. With grade-level reading and literacy as a consistent and popular content strand, hundreds of workshops have been offered to those working across the learning day to help students build the strong language and literacy skills critical to their success
Dr. Martha Bruckner is superintendent of Iowa’s Council Bluffs School District. Since she took on the job in 2007, Dr. Bruckner has been a state and national leader in connecting the dots between school readiness, attendance and summer learning in ways that help assure third-grade reading success.
In her last year as Superintendent in 2016, Council Bluffs made significant gains in school readiness, school attendance, summer learning and overall grade-level reading for children from low-income families. From spring 2014 to spring 2016, in Council Bluffs Community School District the percentage of children meeting kindergarten readiness criteria rose more than 10 points, from 82.2 percent to 92.7 percent. The percentage of first graders who were chronically absent fell from 6.9 percent in 2012–13 to 5.3 percent in 2014–15. The percentage of second graders improving their reading proficiency levels over the summer increased from 7.7 percent in 2015 to 12.5 percent in 2016. There was also an increase in the percentage of third-grade children reading at the proficient level, from 28.7 percent in 2014 to 44.4 percent in 2016.
State and local education leaders say Council Bluffs is proof positive of how school districts do best for low-income kids when goals are clear, resources are used wisely and – most important – the leadership is inspirational. Especially in her work to promote grade-level reading success, Dr. Bruckner also demonstrates how schools and communities can mobilize together to assure more hopeful futures for vulnerable kids. In the process, she helped set the pace for other school district and civic leaders across the state.
As one of the primary sponsors of the Colorado Reading to Ensure Academic Development (READ) Act, former State Senator Mike Johnston demonstrated how knowledge about an issue is formed not just by research and evidence but also by the wisdom of lived experience.
In addition to graduating from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and becoming one of the nation’s leading education reform experts, Johnston’s experience includes teaching for two years in the Mississippi Delta and serving as principal of a public high school that became one of the first in Colorado history to send all its graduating seniors to college.
Johnston helped assure that the Colorado READ Act, passed by the legislature in 2012, accelerated emphasis on rigorous kindergarten-through-grade-three literacy instruction and development of individual intervention plans for students reading below proficient level in those grades.
With his leadership on the READ Act, Johnston helped Colorado put a stake in the ground on grade-level reading by the end of third grade, making it a policy priority; a target for increased public, private and philanthropic investment; a performance measure for schools and school districts; and a catalyst for civic action. He showed how policymakers can translate their experience and values into bold action, driven by a ferocious belief in the ability of all children to succeed.
Sandra Gutierrez is the Founder and National Director of Abriendo Puertas /Opening Doors, the nation’s first evidence-based, comprehensive training program developed for and with Latino parents with young children.
Since its founding in 2007, Abriendo Puertas has worked with more than 400 family-serving organizations to provide its curriculum in Spanish and English to some 80,000 parents in 300 cities across the United States. Training is based on an appreciation for the wisdom parents and communities already possess, and on a belief that parents are the experts when it comes to raising their children.
Under the leadership of Ms. Gutierrez, Abriendo Puertas has thus helped lead a movement not just to engage low-income parents in work to assure low-income children are healthy and prepared to succeed in school, but to empower them as their children’s primary brain developers, first teachers and best advocates.
Ms. Gutierrez also has played a key role in the development of “two-generation” approaches that seek to simultaneously provide opportunities for low-income children and their parents through coordinated preschool and workforce development programs and other strategies. She has also advised efforts to build the cultural competence and capacity of schools and other institutions to engage and empower parents effectively.
Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, noted the four join former Providence Mayor Angel Tavares, who was named a GLR Champion in October, 2014 and Kansas City Mayor Sylvester "Sly" James, who was recognized in Spring 2016, on the Council.
Smith used the induction ceremony to announce the Campaign's plans to support GLR Communities in identifying, selecting and recognizing up to 1000 GLR Champions during the next 18 months.
Champions can be exemplary volunteers, early care and education providers, school and civic leaders, public officials and others who communities nominate based on their alliance with and support for local and state-wide efforts to support early grade success, Smith said to about 400 people attending the 2017 All America Cities-Grade Level Reading Award ceremony.
"We expect the criteria will be broad and flexible and each community will decide each year who are the one, two three or four people who are their Champions."