Dubuque, IA


In July 2012, Dubuque’s Grade Level Reading Campaign, made up of dozens of community partners including schools, nonprofits, higher-ed, business, government and philanthropy was recognized by the Nation Civic League with the All-America City Award, for our 3rd Grade Reading Community Solutions Action Plan.

In September 2012, the plan was also selected as a Together for Tomorrow Challenge winner for the 2012-13 school year by the U.S. Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Since then, the team in Dubuque has shifted to implementing the plan. Our partnerships continue to grow and progress in each of the Focus Areas, and while it is early in our work, our progress is exciting.


Dubuque’s Vision: Attendance is a community priority of parents, students, nonprofits, business partner and schools, no students miss more than 10% of school each year.

Progress update Year 1

A School Attendance Committee piloted multiple best practices to test in one of our most at-risk elementary schools during the 2012-13 school year. Working with School Administrators, and the building Principal, the committee has taken the following actions;

  • Implementation of an intervention process that catches attendance issues early

  • Received a grant from the Community Foundation to implement an attendance pilot program.

  • Testing of best practice policies and programs that have proven successful in other schools

and districts.

What happened?

Attendance was better than the year prior. In fact, chronic absence was reduced from 7% to 2% and the number of students who attended 98% of the time went from 22% to 24%.

What’s next?

The Attendance Committee is rolling out the best practice policies and programs to scale in the district to all 13 elementary schools along with a strong attendance awareness campaign beginning this school year.


Dubuque’s Vision: Change summertime focus from “keeping kids busy” to purposeful activities that foster skills, including reading, math, and science growth, and instill a love for life-long learning, healthy living, and connection to school.

Progress update – Year 1

A Summer Learning Committee implemented a pilot summer learning program this summer (2013), with support from a planning grant from the Community Foundation. The summer pilot offered 47 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade at-risk students a 7-week, research based, summer learning program. The program included;

  • activity based learning with a focus on reading

  • fun enriched activities from community-based organizations

  • best-practice and research-based instruction by certified teachers

  • a community-supported collaborative approach between schools and nonprofits

What happened?

Approximately 82% of the students maintained or improved their reading proficiency. Community partners learned new ways to incorporate reading into their programs. Students had fun!

What’s next?

Data from the summer pilot will be used to identify what works and what doesn’t. The year 1 pilot will also inform a plan for scaling the summer learning program in future years.


Dubuque’s Vision: All young people in Dubuque are school ready through high quality early education in combination with additional supports to compensate for and overcome early disadvantages for higher achievement levels.

Progress update – Year 1

The Carnegie Stout Library launched the Dubuque Picture Book Award which is connecting pre-schoolers to reading at an early age. Funding support from McGraw-Hill made the new program possible. Meanwhile, leaders from North East Iowa Community College and the Dubuque

Dubuque Community Schools and Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) partnered to develop a new program that creates an affordable pathway for training opportunities for early-childhood professionals. High school juniors and seniors can now enroll in early childhood development classes that earn dual-credit at NICC. NICC offers certificate training programs for preschool professionals and directors. Dubuque’s free 4-year preschool at risk continues to work for policy changes at the state level to ensure continued access and high participation.

What happened?

More than 100 students registered for the new pathway to early-childhood development careers courses this fall!

What’s next?

We are advocating for 4-year old preschool policies that support a public/private approach like Dubuque’s model, to expand access and build capacity in communities to provide 4-year preschool for every child.


On behalf of the Dubuque Campaign for Grade-Level Reading we thank the Annie E Casey Foundation and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading for recognizing Dubuque’s efforts.

We also thank the members of the Dubuque Campaign for their passion, openness to innovation and willingness to partner. An exciting example is collaboration between the City of Dubuque and the Dubuque Community Schools, who partnered on an application for four (4) AmeriCorps VISTAs. We recently received news that our application was accepted. The Schools and City will split the cost of the VISTAs who will serve to support each of the three focus areas – School Attendance, Summer Learning, and School Readiness. The fourth VISTA will support the three areas with a special focus on implementing strategies to collect and manage data for the Campaign.

We’re proud of our progress but recognize there is still much to do before we achieve Dubuque’s Vision; At least 90% of our students in grades 3, 4, and 5 will be proficient in reading.

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  • Lots of good work and like the way you laid it all out with the "what happened?"/results and the "what's next?" Thanks for sharing and look forward to learning more.

    Regards, Betsy (GLR Network's new community manager ...and an Iowa/Des Moines resident!)

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