The National Campaign for Grade Level Reading is a collaborative effort by foundations, nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, states and communities across the nation to ensure that more children in low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career, and active citizenship. Critical to that success is the ability to at grade levelby the end of third grade. This benchmark is important as it marks the point in schools at which children shift from learning to read to reading to learn.
Worcester has been a part of the Campaign since its inception. We have made important strides in galvanizing our community around the importance of assuring that all of our students are reading with confidence, proficiency, and fluency when they enter grade four. 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 offered recommendations to the Superintendent of Schools and the School Committee. As a result of this work, District policies toward tardiness—a major driver of school absence—were changed.
- 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
To address Summer Learning Loss, WEC has:
- Led by school committee John Monfredo, Worcester offers the Worcester, the City that Reads program. Over 10,000 books were collected and distributed to children in grades k-6.
- 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.
- The Office of the City Manager supports Recreation Worcester, a program offered in eleven city parks and that includes an experiential learning component.