Ernestine Benedict's Posts (33)

  • Forty-five new communities have joined the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (GLR Campaign), a nationwide movement to increase early reading proficiency.

    The newest communities to join this collaborative effort include: Boulder County, Colo.; Brevard County, Fla.; 37 counties in the state of Georgia; Cortland County, N.Y.; West Medford, Ore.; Wyoming Valley, Pa.; Newport, R.I.; Dallas, Texas; and Martinsville-Henry County, Va.

    The 37 counties in Georgia that have newly joined the GLR Network are partnered together through Get Georgia Reading, a statewide GLR Campaign comprised of people, organizations and communities that applies a common agenda as a framework for action so that all children in Georgia become proficient readers by the end of third grade. The counties include: Baldwin, Bibb (Macon-Bibb), Brooks, Catoosa, Charlton, Clarke, Colquitt, Cook, Crawford, Crisp, DeKalb (East Lake and Kirkwood Neighborhoods), Echols, Elbert, Emanuel, Fulton County (South and Southeast Atlanta), Gilmer, Gordon, Gwinnett, Hancock, Henry, Houston, Jones, Lowndes, Macon, Monroe, Murray, Newton, Peach, Polk, Richmond, Seminole, Telfair, Terrell, Twiggs, Washington, Whitfield and Wilkinson.

    Additionally, the City of Atlanta and Glynn County (including Brunswick) have bolstered their local GLR Campaign efforts through an updated Community Solutions Action Plan, expanded reach and additional funding to increase their impact.

    “We are thrilled to welcome the newest members of our growing network of communities and see momentum continuing to build,” said Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. “Their commitment to this vital mission comes at a critical time when nearly half of the children in the United States under the age of 5 (the years of greatest brain development) live in extreme poverty. Together, we will do what it takes to ensure our nation’s most vulnerable children have the support and opportunities they need to thrive.”

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  • Major New Report on Parents

    The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a new report last week, Parenting Matters: Supporting Parents of Children Ages 0-8, that reviews research on parenting practices and identifies effective practices. This seminal report lifts up parents as the key determinant of their child’s early school success.
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  • Happy Summer Learning Day! The action on #KeepKidsLearning is nonstop today and very inspiring! We’re thrilled to be united with the National Summer Learning Association to lift up the importance of summer learning. GLR Campaign communities, partners and supporters are doing their part to make National Summer Learning Day bigger and better than ever.

     Check out our Storify featuring many familiar names and faces. If you haven’t already, be sure to retweet and send tweets of your own. Spreading the word via Facebook, Instagram, other social media channels, and email counts too. More to come!!

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  • ESSA: Call to Action

    Statement by Kati Haycock, CEO of the Education Trust

    As Congress worked to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act last year, The Education Trust served as the hub for a group of nine civil rights, business, and disabilities organizations — and as part of a larger group of 47 civil rights and other equity-focused organizations — working together to beat back bad proposals (like sending less money to the poorest schools and districts) and support the inclusion of strong, equity-focused provisions in the new law, known as ESSA. Almost all of those organizations, together with their state and local affiliates, are now carrying their fight to the states, which have new discretion on a range of matters previously determined by the federal government.

    If you really care about grade-level reading, I want to argue as strongly as I can that you can’t afford to sit out the next 15 months of policymaking in your states.

    Yes, I know that the prospect of engaging on controversial topics like testing — or arcane topics like the details of school ratings systems — probably makes most of you nauseous. But if we have learned anything from 25 years of policy analysis, it is this: 

    • What (and who) gets measured, ends up mattering.
    • What matters most ends up driving attention, energy, and resources. 

    So if you want this thing that you have decided is so important — grade-level reading, especially among poor children and children of color — to matter, you need to jump into the conversations that are probably just beginning in your state, build alliances with others, especially in the civil rights and business communities, who are already engaged, and make sure that you and your allies are educated on the enormously complicated questions that every state will have to decide. 

    I could just tell you that our ESSA factsheets are a good place to start educating yourself and leave it at that.

    But I know that squeamishness about entering the arena of state policymaking is such a strong deterrent that I want to give you just a few concrete examples of the risks of not doing so.

    Let me start with everybody’s least favorite topic: testing. 

    The main reason that the civil rights and disabilities communities fought so hard to preserve the federal requirement that all students in grades 3 to 8 be assessed each year, as well as at least once in high school, is so advocates in every state wouldn’t have to.

    Many of you may be wondering, though, why organizations that fought so long against test misuse and abuse would fight so hard to keep it. The reason, frankly, is a simple one: because we know that students who are not tested don’t count.

    We won that fight: The law is clear that all students need to be tested. In this environment, though, those who believe otherwise have continued their fight through two strategies — opt-outs and “local control of assessment.” 

    You know the main idea behind the first one — to render school-level data meaningless by convincing large numbers of parents to opt their children out.

    The second one, local control of assessment, is basically a return to the past: If local schools and districts are allowed to choose their own tests, no parent — much less anybody else — will be able to trust the data. 

    So I return to my main point: If you want reading to be measured so you can track progress and mobilize help, you can’t sit out this fight.

    I know, though, that strong reading test results are by no means the only thing that you care about. 

    Because of its relationship with reading success, for example, many of you have been working to reduce chronic absenteeism. Some of you, too, have been working on socio-emotional skills, or on school climate, discipline, and safety. Others may be working on school funding.

    All of these are important.

    So you will be glad to know that ESSA newly requires lots more reporting on these things and more — including, for the first time, school-level expenditures per student. And the new law also allows states to include in their school ratings systems other indicators of student or school success

    There’s a lot about that that sounds exciting.

    For example, for those of you who have been working to get schools to be more proactive about chronic absenteeism, making goals for reducing such absenteeism part of the school rating system offers the possibility of increasing the attention, energy, and resources devoted here.

    Many of the folks working on disproportionate discipline are also chomping at the bit to include this in the school rating system. 

    Parents, too, care a lot about how they and their children are treated at school, so including parent and student surveys could be a great way to elevate the importance of treating parents and students with respect. 

    But the devil here is very much in the details because with every addition, there is the risk of less attention to something else. The core risk to your agenda is this: that schools will get their “A’s,” or be otherwise judged as making sufficient progress, if parents are happier (or at least report that they are, and you can imagine how school leaders will pitch that to parents) or students score higher on an assessment of “self-regulation” or “growth mindset,” but there is no improvement whatsoever — even actual declines — in reading achievement. 

    And if these issues are tough, the issues surrounding how much importance should be attached to “subgroup” results on any of these things are even more complex, with all of us on the civil rights/disabilities side wanting action whenever any group is not improving for two or more years, and many folks in the education organization side arguing that that “smacks of NCLB’s AYP” and should be opposed at all costs.

    So, I know that this all sounds hard and contentious. And believe me, it probably will be. But, at least from my vantage point, the risks to your work of sitting this out are far more severe than getting a little bruised in the battle. 

    Read “Summary of Proposed Regulations on Accountability, State Plans, and Data Reporting under ESSA.”

    Watch 2016 Funder-to-Funder Huddle Plenary Panel

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  • At the sixth annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America meeting held this week in Atlanta, Georgia, hundreds of leaders in business, philanthropy, government, and nonprofits came together to develop solutions that encourage continued economic growth, support long-term competitiveness, and increase social mobility in the United States.

    The plenary session Overcoming Poverty; Improving Opportunity featured a panel of "power players" that lifted up grade-level reading and related focus areas (readiness, attendance, summer learning, health and supporting parents success) as the most critical issues that we must address to empower our children and our build a better America.

    • Michael McAfee, Co-director for Promise Neighborhoods Institute and Vice President for Programs, PolicyLink 
    • Patrick T. McCarthy, President and CEO, The Annie E. Casey Foundation 
    • Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers 
    • Marian Wright Edelman, President, Children's Defense Fund


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  • The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights earlier today released a first look at the 2013-14 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), a comprehensive database with information from every public school in the country. For the first time, the data include Chronic Absence. Click to read a statement from Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, on the release of the report.
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  • Do you know or work with elementary administrators in the New England Region? Be sure to tell them about this upcoming informative seminar.

    Keys To Literacy: Literacy Leadership Essential Knowledge and Strategies for Elementary Administrators 

    Literacy is at the core of Elementary Education, and developing student literacy skills is top priority for elementary administrators. In order to be effective, Elementary leaders must have grade-level specific literacy knowledge to develop and implement school-wide literacy plans, assessment, curriculum and instruction for all students.

    This one-day overview session provides the essential knowledge that Elementary Administrators can use to ensure that all children read well and acquire foundational literacy skills. The session addresses what you need to know in order be effective at leading and supervising literacy across your school or district.

    You will learn:

    • A framework for supporting different types of readers, across a spectrum of needs

    • Grade specific approaches for literacy instruction

    • An overview of the reading process and how the 8 strands of language and

      literacy are woven together

    • A “Roadmap” of resources and plans to support a school-wide reading

      strategy and an actionable Literacy Plan

    • Suggestions for core, supplemental, and intervention programs and materials

      Participants will receive “required reading list”, templates, surveys, websites, principals’ guide for classroom observations, glossary of terms, and planning sheets.

      To get the most from this session and to facilitate a strategic, consistent and long- term literacy focus it is recommended that leadership and literacy teams attend together.

      The session leader, Sally Grimes is a highly regarded literacy expert. Over her 36 years in literacy education, Sally has been a classroom teacher, Special Educator, Reading Specialist, Administrator, Clinical Evaluator, College Professor and Teacher Trainer. Sally currently serves on the Literacy Planning Team for the state of Massachusetts. She consults with districts and provides PD in literacy to parents, para-professionals, teachers and administrators.

      June 7, 2016 – Rowley, MA
      TIME 9:00 AM – 3:30 PM (registration begins at 8:30 AM) COST: $175/$140 - with discount

      (All sessions include materials, light breakfast and catered lunch) 

    TO REGISTER: Complete the registration form and submit with purchase order or check payment (payable to Keys to Literacy, LLC). Credit cards are accepted at Your registration will be confirmed by email. You are not registered unless you receive a confirmation email! 

    QUESTIONS? Contact Kathy Campbell at (978) 948-8511, ext. 203 or 

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  • During a ceremony today in Tampa, Florida, Secretary Castro announced HUD will team up with the Campaign for Grade Level Reading to promote the great work Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) are doing as partners in their local Campaigns for Grade-Level Reading and to encourage and support other PHAs in joining their local campaign.

    This new partnership will help to ensure that critical GLR strategies are reaching families living in public housing. Housing is a critical platform for a child’s success and nearly four million low-income children are living in HUD-assisted housing. An important part of HUD’s mission is to form partnerships between public housing agencies, private partners, and school systems that can enhance education outcomes needed to improve the life trajectories of low-income children. 

     “Empowering our children with the basic skills they need to become successful helps them to reach their full potential,” said Castro. “There’s no more important mission than to use housing as a platform for success and we need to make certain that our residents, particularly their children, have every opportunity that education can provide. I’m thrilled that the Tampa Housing Authority has taken on this initiative and will serve as a model for other housing authorities.”

     “For children in low-income families, the stakes are even higher and the challenges much greater,” said Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. "By embracing grade-level reading as an important goal of the supportive services they provide, housing authorities are demonstrating that families can break the cycle of intergenerational poverty." 

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  • The Funder Huddle Experience

    “The moral imperative to act is crystallized by the knowledge that action can make difference.”

    Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, kicked off the 2016 Funder-to-Funder Huddle with this reflective call to action, setting the stage for the discussion about progress being made nationwide on early learning and grade-level reading and the challenges that lie ahead.

    Nearly 300 funders and community leaders gathered in Washington, D.C. for two days of non-stop action, networking, connecting, learning, and sharing. The agenda was chock full of thought-provoking presentations and discussions on strategies and best practices to advance early literacy work.Thank you to all the attendees who made the Funder Huddle a successful and inspiring gathering! 



    The exciting news is that 94 communities in 28 states have made progress on at least one of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading pillars – school readiness, attendance & summer learning. This is a powerful testimony to the notion that action can make a difference and that every child can succeed and reach his or her full potential. We must work together, push boundaries, and hold ourselves and each other accountable. 

    We must accelerate progress to reach our goal of increasing 100 percent the number of children reading at grade-level by the end of third grade in at least a dozen states by 2020. To accomplish this Campaign is “doubling down” on work to improve school readiness, combat chronic absence, and stop the summer slide, he said. And it will continue to lift up “two of the major determinants of early learning, early literacy and early school success: parents and health.

    Ralph Smith said, “We have the talent, the capacity, the relationships and the resources to produce the bigger outcomes our children deserve. The question is, do we have the will to work harder, to big deeper, to spend the extra hour, the extra day, the extra week, to accept the challenge and do what has to be done?”



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  • Just on the heels of the release of the GLR Supporting Parent Success Resource Guides, the Campaign is thrilled to announce that we are deepening our partnership with Vroom, a rapidly growing, national movement empowering parents and caregivers to play a proactive role in their children’s early brain development.
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  • This year, 38 communities across the nation have been recognized as GLR Pacesettersfor “leading by example” to solve one or more of the challenges that can undermine early literacy – school readiness, school attendance, and summer learning.

    “Pacesetter Honors are among the highest awards presented by the Campaign,” said Ralph Smith, CGLR managing director. “We are very proud of these communities and the organizations and individuals behind them for joining forces and working tirelessly to uplift children and families. They remind us that we are seeing great progress and real results all across the country.”

    Pacesetter communities completed a rigorous self-assessment and were identified based on meeting the following criteria:

    • Demonstrating measurable improvement in outcomes for low-income children in one or more of the following focus areas: school readiness, school attendance, summer learning and grade-level reading
    • Operating with an updated Community Solutions Action Plan (CSAP)
    • Implementing key strategies for success and replicating proven and promising strategies, programs and practices
    • Integrating efforts to support parent success and address the health determinants of early school success
    • Driving with data to establish baselines, set targets, track progress, disaggregate for subgroups, tailor strategies and ensure accountability
    • Building a coalition of local funders committed to achieving results

    ...and the PACESETTER HONOREES are:

    “If we’re going to close the achievement gap, we need mobilized communities – like these Pacesetters – working with schools, city agencies, nonprofits, civic leaders and parents to focus on third-grade reading,” Smith added. “These Pacesetter communities inspire us to believe that great things can happen when all of us support parents, care providers and educators as they work to ensure more hopeful futures for our children.”

    Pacesetter Honors have been awarded to communities and partners in the Campaign network since 2012. View the complete list of honorees. Pacesetter communities will be formally honored at the Campaign’s 2016 Funder-to-Funder Huddle to be held in Washington, D.C., April 7-8. Each Pacesetter will receive a certificate and special recognition banner to showcase their award throughout their communities.

    Let's CELEBRATE and SHARE the good news: CLICK TO TWEET!

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  • A Seuss-tastic Day!

    March 2 was Read Across America Day and Dr. Seuss' Birthday! This annual party is hosted by The National Education Association to celebrate the joy of reading and motivate children all across the country to read, read, read!

    We kicked off the day with a Seuss-tastic celebration at Dr. Ethel D. Allen Promise Academy in Philadelphia, PA. The school's Principal Stefan Feaster- Eberhard and one of its third-grade classes joined us in the library for a special presentation and Dr. Suess read-aloud. 

    Our friends from Wells Fargo, Greg Redden, Regional President for Greater Philadelphia/Delaware and A.J. Jordan, ‎Senior Vice President & Community Affairs Manager also joined us. They received many oohs and ahh's from the third-grade crowd after presenting a $250,000 check to the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and a $100,000 check to the local GLR READ! by 4th Campaign. These generous investments will help both the enterprise and local Campaigns to capitalize on progress to date and strengthen the guidance, tools and resources that support all communities in the GLR network.

    Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign, talked with students about the importance of reading and setting high expectations for themselves. "We owe it to young people to expand their horizons by teaching them to read," said Smith.

    Diane Castelbuono, Deputy for Early Learning, School District of Philadelphia and Jenny Bogoni, Executive Director, READ! by 4th Campaign at Free Library of Philadelphia also shared inspiring advice with the students.

    We capped off the celebration with a lively reading of Dr. Seuss' Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? Well, we discovered Ethel Allen Promise Academy's, third-grade class can moo, buzz, blurp, eek eek, and cock-a-doodle too!! TELL US how you celebrated Read Across America Day. Drop us a comment! 

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  • Eight new communities have joined the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a nationwide movement to increase early reading proficiency. The newest communities to join this collaborative effort include Birmingham, Ala.; Greater Surprise, Ariz.; Tolleson, Ariz.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Grinnell, Iowa; Emporia, Kan.; Gaston County, N.C.; and Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, Va.
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