Turn the Page KC
Educational attainment is instrumental to individual success. It is the greatest equalizer in securing social mobility and the ability to lead a healthy productive life. For Kansas City, it is also the most important factor in determining our region’s economic growth and future prosperity. There is more we can do to prepare our students to compete in both the local economy and the evolving global market, which has an increasingly growing demand for a more high-skilled workforce.
Mayor James recognizes the importance of reversing this cycle. He has made this cause his top economic development priority, and launched a city-wide campaign to address the issue. To institute sustainable generational change, we must begin early at the most basic level, ensuring our students have the most important fundamental skill, the ability to read.
Through applying for the All-America City Award in 2011, Turn the Page KC emerged as a vehicle for discussion on how to increase the number of students reading at grade level in Kansas City, Missouri. Since, it has culminated into a new nonprofit organization led by Mayor Sly James and a dedicated Board of Directors comprising of business, education, philanthropic, and community leaders.
Turn the Page KC serves as a facilitator, to convene the most important stakeholders in early childhood and elementary education in order to build consensus, align priorities, and strategically invest in the most impactful programs. We believe that we can close the achievement gap, by focusing our resources where they will have the greatest return, in the birth to third grade pipeline. Turn the Page KC focuses efforts on the main areas of the Grade Level Reading Campaign: attendance, summer learning, and kindergarten readiness.
In 2012, Turn the Page KC was awarded a three year grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service for five VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) corps members to join the grade level reading initiative in Kansas City. The mission of VISTA corps members is to strengthen and add-capacity to systems and programs that help improve lives and move people out of the conditions of poverty. The goal of Turn the Page KC’s VISTA grant is to build relationships with local Kansas City school districts to elevate community awareness of the importance of grade level reading, and design and implement volunteer recruitment strategies and programs that can then be sustained long-term. During the 2012-2013 school year, two VISTAs were placed in Kansas City Public Schools, and one in each of the Hickman Mills, Center, and Park Hill school districts. In their first year, the VISTA members recruited over 200 literacy volunteers who put in almost 3,500 hours working with kindergarten through third grade students to improve their reading skills.
Another major accomplishment for Turn the Page was a grant awarded from the Hall Family Foundation to Turn the Page KC and the Kansas City Area Education Research Consortium (KC-AERC) to collect, aggregate, and analyze metropolitan student data. This project will report on a quarterly basis the citywide data calculations of third grade reading proficiency and contributing socioeconomic factors, i.e. attendance, ethnicity, free and reduced lunch rate. Right now this data is publicly available but not calculated and analyzed from a citywide point of view. This project will be able to gather key data points from kindergarten through third grade reading assessments and apply an equalizing analysis to account for a diversity of assessment tools across districts. It will also match those unique student assessments via MOSIS number to community learning experiences in libraries, summer programming, and other sources, so that we can gain a fuller understanding of all the interventions that effectively improve students' reading proficiency, quantify the ultimate impact and inform school and community programs.
Turn the Page KC and the Mayor’s Office were also one of eight cities chosen by the Target Corporation and Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Cities of Service to receive a $40,000 Third Grade Reads Grant to support grade-level reading. The Mayor’s Office is using this grant to develop a universal volunteer training guide so that any partner in Turn the Page KC, whether they are a school-based, out of school, or summer-time service provider, can utilize it to help volunteers understand how to best serve kindergarten through third grade students. The Mayor’s Office sought the consult of a group of professional literacy experts to help craft the content of the guide and also convened a group of service providers to provide feedback on how to put a universal guide to best use. The guide will cover best practices in engaging volunteers in literacy activities. Turn the Page KC plans to unveil the final product to volunteers and partner organizations at the end of September.
The Mayor has also been the lead figure in Kansas City in promoting September as “Attendance Awareness Month.” On Tuesday, September 3, the Mayor will be joined by a wide range of supporters including area superintendents, educators, civic leaders, and local Kansas City celebrities to raise awareness of the importance of school attendance to academic achievement. We know that it is a community effort to raise a child and ensure they live a healthy life. To have caring adults and mentors promote the importance of school attendance is a major component to helping our community succeed in this goal.
Turn the Page KC is proud to be a member of the Grade Level Reading Network and is grateful for the continuous support we have received from the Campaign and its partnering organizations, including the Annie E. Casey Foundation and National League of Cities. We will continue to work closely with these organizations so that our city, and our country, can move the needle on academic achievement and ensure all students have the skills they need to succeed.