The Early Childhood Advocates have voluntarily self-organized around the mission of having all children in the pre-natal to 5-year-old age group kindergarten-ready. This group has engaged more than 10 other agencies and organizations, including the medical community, in their quest to overcoming barriers to literacy in the youngest of children. The advocates have identified the ideal state of conditions for kindergarten readiness in Indian River County once they reach their goal in 2018, while also analyzing the state of conditions that exist here today. A year ago the school district set a goal to have 90 percent of all third grade students reading at grade level by 2018. This aggressive goal is the group's moonshot moment, setting them on a path toward becoming our country's leading learning and literacy community.
Last spring, Highlands Elementary Principal Diane Fannin and The Learning Alliance set out across the country to visit several schools with the best literacy education and leadership models. First, Diane headed to Maryland to visit three prominent schools for dyslexic children, because the latest literacy research proves that best practices for teaching dyslexic students how to read are also the best ways to teach reading to all students. Her second stop was New York City's PS 380 Elementary School, with a population of students similar to those at Highlands: 90-100% free and reduced lunch, up to 20% English as a second language learners and a significant number of students with developmental delay. She returned ready to put the new techniques and information she learned to use.
Grants and Awards
Indian River County and The Learning Alliance were recently recognized by the Foundation as a National Pace Setter for their Summer Scholars program, a literacy tutoring program piloted at Boys & Girls Club and Gifford Youth Activity Center last summer. Building on the program's overwhelming success, this year's Summer Scholars is delving deeper into literacy skills to include vocabulary, comprehension and writing components for their scholars. And in July, the local Big Brothers Big Sisters organization received a grant for $40,000 from the Indian River Community Foundation to assist 50 pre-kindergarten students to become ready for kindergarten through one-on-one mentoring and family literacy activities. This program is in collaboration with the Early Learning Coalition. On September 30th, Ready for Kindergarten will meet with George Washington University to discuss how to take the program to the next level with national and federal funding, using the latest research on prenatal to 3, and with 4-5 Pre-K.
Emergent Learning Summit
The first ever Community-Wide Moonshot Moment 'Emergent Learning Summit' was held at Storm Grove Middle School, where the cafeteria was filled with people discussing School Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Community Action/Schools Can't Do It Alone, and Teacher Journey to Excellence. Specific panel subjects included attendance and summer learning loss. School District Leaders, principals, teachers, reading coaches came together with community leaders, philanthropists, civic representatives, etc., and the open communication between the schools and the community has resulted in a feeling of trust and the sense that collaboration is a "two-way street." It is clear that the community needs to support the schools and let the schools know that they are there and willing to help, and that likewise the schools need to create a welcoming environment for the community and be proactive in asking for help. A wrap-up celebration for the summit is scheduled for September 5th, where insights from the event and requests for the next year will be discussed.
The new school year brings with it the opportunity to teach and engage parents. Planned events include the inaugural meeting of the Parent Engagement Group. Literacy Week will be celebrated September 12-14th, with fun events and informational workshops and training for parents, teachers, and physicians.