Worcester, MA

The Worcester Campaign for Grade Level Reading

Over the last year, Worcester has made important strides in galvanizing our community around the importance of assuring that all of our students are reading at grade level by the end of grade three. Led by the Worcester Education Collaborative and the United Way of Central Massachusetts, the Campaign has coalesced around the efforts of several working groups that include representatives from a variety of sectors in our city and individual with specific subject matter expertise. The following explains our work in each of the areas on which the campaign focuses.

To address the issue of chronic absenteeism Worcester has:

  • Researched the attendance data from the Worcester Public Schools to identify the scope of the problem in our city and the sub-populations of children most affected.

  • our research was unequivocal that absenteeism is not the only cause of students missing school. Suspension is also a significant cause of students being out of school. Worcester hosted a forum, Not Present, Not Accounted For, that probed the data regarding school suspension in our district. This is a part of a long term project by the Worcester Education Collaborative and the Latino Education Institute (LEI) at Worcester State University. Following the Forum, the LEI and the Urban Studies Department at Worcester State University completed a series of focus groups and key informant interviews to add to the community’s understanding of the issue. The final phase of this work is a report detailing our findings and offering recommendations to the Superintendent of Schools and the School Committee.

  • Developed a campaign “Attendance Matters” drawing on the work of the Hedy Chang and Attendance Works. This campaign, includes:

    • kits with information and tools to use with constituents for distribution to clergy, youth development organizations, parent groups

    • a press conference with the municipal , civic, school leaders, and students to kick off the campaign, explain the need for consistent, on time daily attendance

    • a poster contest for children in the primary grades

    • a plan for classroom incentives for 100% monthly attendance

Summer Learning Loss

  • Led by school committee John Monfredo, Worcester once again offered the Worcester, the City that Reads program. Over 10,000 books were collected and distributed to children in grades k-6.

  • Once again The United Way of Central Massachusetts supported a summer reading in several day camps. This work funds a reading specialist in the day camps to develop and integrate reading activities into the traditional summer camp program.

  • The Worcester Public Library offered its annual summer reading program with activities and incentives to encourage reading.

Early childhood education

  • In Massachusetts, Strategies for Children has been a leader in advocating for a significant expansion in the availability of pre-school for young children. Worcester organizations have supported the Governor’s proposals for the expansion of pre-school . Beyond advocacy for early childhood education in formal settings, we have also been working with partner groups including the United Way, Worcester Education Collaborative, the Worcester Public Schools, and the Worcester Public Library to inform and develop the capacity of families and our community to create language rich environments for children. To that end we are:

  • Working with the Worcester Public Schools television station on a program called the The Great Green Room. This program uses “celebrity” readers from our community to read a classic of children’s literature to a small group of youngsters. The purpose of the program is two fold: to demonstrate interactive read-aloud for adult viewer, to inform caregivers about literacy extension activities, and to expose young children to language and books.

  • Everybody Ready to Read is a program developed by the American Library Association to address the development of reading readiness in the very youngest children. A group librarians from the WPL have been trained in the implementation of this program.

As the Worcester team progressed in its work, it became clear that one of the important tasks to advance the of grade level reading by the end of third grade, was the need to make books more readily available to children outside of school. Therefore getting books in the hands of children has been added as an element of the Worcester Campaign.

Using a train the trainer model, in the winter of 2013 the Worcester Education Collaborative trained a group of 15 parent leaders in interactive/dialogic reading. This group of parents forms the core of those community members working with us on aspects of this project.

  • Hanover Insurance is the sponsor of a program with the Worcester Education Collaborative called the Common Read. This program will roll out this fall in four schools and provide each kindergarten student with a set a of five books for their personal library. The books will be distributed one every other month concurrent with a meeting of a book club open to extended family and caregivers. The purpose of the Common Read is to get books in the hands of children, to encourage family literacy, and to develop reading and reading support skills.

  • One City, One Library is a joint project and of the Worcester Public Library (WPL) and the Worcester Public Schools (WPS). The project streamlines systems and maximizes services by merging the school libraries at four sites with the Worcester Public Library. Under an MOU, the library will manage the collection and other services on behalf of the schools. As a result of this arrangement, four WPS libraries will be opened or refurbished and enhanced. In addition, the space will be available beyond school hours for library and community programming.

  • Everybody Ready to Read is a program developed by the American Library Association to address the development of reading readiness in the very youngest children. A group librarians from the WPL have been trained in the implementation of this program.

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  • Great work Worcester! The research on suspensions and absenteeism particularly caught my eye. So did the "celebrity" reads in the Great Green Room! Look forward to learning more.

    Betsy Rubiner (the GLR Network's community manager.)

  • We are on our way... Through "Worcester: the City that Reads" we collected over 30,000 books and put them into the hands of all children for summer reading.  In addition, we are part of the movement across the country in dealing with chronic absenteeism.  After filing an agenda item at the school committee level, administration has a community effort committee dealing with the problem and a "kick-up" for the event will take place next Tuesday.

    John Monfredo, School Committee Member and chair of Worcester: the City that Reads

  • Wonderful to see the active role of the libraries through the Everybody Ready to Read program.

    Kim Scott (Literacy Powerline and Campaign consultant)

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