Last week’s Beyond School Hours Conference, hosted by Foundations, Inc. in Orlando, FL, is the nation’s premiere conference for educators and leaders serving K-12 students in afterschool, summer and beyond.

This year’s conference featured a specific strand focused on grade-level reading and literacy. Campaign leaders took the opportunity to convene two important sessions focused on building partnerships between GLR communities and afterschool programs and on ensuring early school success.

In a pre-conference session, Ron Fairchild, Director of the GLR Support Center, hosted the first-ever convening of Statewide Afterschool Network (SAN) directors and state leads for the GLR Campaign. This gathering was made possible with support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. During the session, leaders from the states of Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Mississippi, New York, and Wyoming explored opportunities for greater alignment and collaboration to improve 3rd grade reading proficiency. The Campaign’s Managing Director, Ralph Smith joined briefly to share remarks about the importance of sharing data to help inform decisions and track progress so that solutions can be consistently formulated within states.

Building on Ralph's remarks, the group discussed how they can even better integrate the frameworks, funding resources, and infrastructure of the GLR Campaign with the work of the SANs and 21st CCLC-funded programs. With input from representatives of Attendance Works and BELL, and highlights shared by leaders from three states with successful working partnerships including Arkansas, Florida and Iowa, the conversation identified strategies to leverage local and national convenings and common early literacy proof points that can help put many more low-income children on the path to success in school and in life. The Campaign looks forward to continued opportunities to build working partnerships in states and communities across the country.

In a featured panel session focused on ensuring early school success, the Campaign convened a panel of cross-sector leaders in a “town hall” style conversation about their strategies to engage parents and use technology and community spaces to extend services for families and their young children. Panelists included Abra Lyons-Warren, Senior Program and Policy Manager with the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, Alejandro Gac-Artigas, CEO and Founder of the Springborad Collaborative, Sheetal Singh, Director of Design and Innovation at the Early Learning Lab, and Becky Miles-Polka, Senior Consultant and Iowa State Lead with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Participants engaged in a discussion that centered on how technology is being used to reach and support low-income parents of young children. Sheetal shared The Early Learning Lab’s new report, NextGen Technology: Insights and Recommendations to Support the Parents of Children Ages 0-3.

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