The Grade Level Reading initiative in Richmond, Virginia is a coalition led by a Steering Committee representing Richmond Public Schools, the United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg, Richmond Public Library, Richmond Promise Neighborhood, and two prominent local nonprofit organizations of ChildSavers and the Partnership for Families Northside. While it sometimes seems as if we make one step forward and two steps backwards, at the end of one year we do have successes to report.
Our school system and Mayor will have a media release at the end of August promoting Attendance Awareness Month. Our partner organizations will be using the AttendanceWorks logo and materials in their individual organizational distribution channels, and our public television station is completing a PSA to be used locally. We are printing stickers with the “Rise and Shine” theme, with partner organizations using them at back-to-school events and
Richmond Public Library and two partner organizations just completed a pilot project to insert literacy interventions into summer programs for children that are primarily recreational. Virginia Commonwealth University developed the structure for daily reading and writing activities, with pre- and post-testing of participating children to determine reading skill retention. We will be evaluating the project’s results and future viability during September and October.
Richmond Public Schools and Richmond Public Library revamped the “Superintendent’s Summer Reading List” for use this summer, broadening the scope of the reading list. As a result, the libraries were able to provide more students with titles from the reading list, students were able to read more, and parents were more satisfied with the availability of suggested reading to focus their child’s summer reading. The list was cross-promoted and cross-linked on the school system’s website and the public library’s website.
Richmond Promise Neighborhood is wrapping up six months of work using the Results Based Accountability framework. Two of the RBA teams, early literacy and parent support, are directly related to GLR’s work and GLR representatives are active on these teams. A key action has been to provide “Info Feasts” in the RPN catchment areas, with a summer Info Feast focused on reducing summer slide. Attendance is the focus of the next Info Feast.
Richmond Public Library just completed three focus groups in the Richmond Promise Neighborhood catchment area, trying to identify barriers to summer learning and ways the public library can better support parents. Results will be analyzed in September.
Bridging Richmond, a Richmond regional cradle-to-career coordinating effort, has agreed to be our GLR data partner. Bridging Richmond, already using the Results Based Accountability software for regional tracking, will add the Grade Level Reading initiative to their data efforts. Richmond Public Schools and Bridging Richmond are developing a Memorandum of Understanding for data release.
Woodville Elementary and the Micah Initiative are piloting a new reading mentor effort for 12 2nd grade students. Individual reading mentors will work with these 12 2nd grade students who are as much as 1 ½ years behind in reading skills, to bring their reading levels up to grade level by June 2014.
We also see the GLR messages and themes appearing throughout the community, with or without our initiative’s specific involvement. Style Weekly, a widely-read weekly local news and entertainment publication, published a series of essays on children’s issues that highlighted the need to focus on school readiness, summer learning and attendance. Various non-profits used the “summer slide” graphics, generating involvement with more organizations in summer learning efforts.
Despite some significant changes in leadership in key GLR organizational partners that required re-tooling of our partnerships, we are keeping the issues of school readiness, summer learning, and attendance in front of community leaders and community partners.