River Region United Way Launched Coalition to Increase Reading Proficiency Rates

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By Mendie Nord

MONTGOMERY— On September 8, 2021, a new, regional effort to increase the number of students across the River Region reading proficiently by the end of the third grade was announced during a virtual forum of area leaders. Launched by River Region United Way, the River Region Bold Goal Coalition will consist of various local entities that support children and families in Autauga, Elmore, Lowndes, Macon, and Montgomery counties.

To access the recorded forum, click here:  www.RRUW.org/Forum.

To guide its work, coalition partners will pursue a shared vision and a common set of measurements to track the effort’s progress. Ultimately, the Bold Goal Coalition will invest in new and existing strategies from birth through a child’s first eight years that address the root causes for why some children struggle with reading.

United Way announced the new initiative during an online forum featuring comments from Dr. Barbara Cooper, the secretary of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, as well as a discussion with school superintendents from Autauga County SchoolsElmore County Public SchoolsLowndes County Public SchoolsMacon County SchoolsMontgomery County Public Schools and Pike Road City Schools. The United Way’s Leadership Forum was attended by leaders of the area’s civic, community, and education communities.

Ron Simmons, president and CEO of River Region United Way, said, “The truth is, there is no one organization or strategy that can ensure that every child in the River Region reads proficiently by the end of third grade. Pervasive issues require collective action to make a collective impact. It will take all of us working together, aligning our efforts, and coming up with shared community goals and solutions.”

Research shows that a student’s ability to read by the end of the third grade is a strong predictor of that child’s future success. Students who continue to struggle after third grade are more likely to struggle in middle school and high school, less likely to graduate from high school, and less likely to be college- and career-ready. Third-grade reading is so essential that the State Legislature passed the Alabama Literacy Act, which will require public school students to repeat the third grade if they aren’t reading adequately. Currently, more than half of fourth-grade students across the River Region do not meet this standard.

The River Region Bold Goal Coalition is modeled after the Alabama Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and similar efforts across the country, including in Birmingham. The River Region Bold Goal Coalition aims to become a StriveTogether community partner.

The state’s Campaign for Grade-Level Reading report outlined several collective impact strategies communities could implement to help children start on a path to school success. Some of the proposed strategies included expanding high-quality early childhood education, prioritizing new investments in summer- and after-school programs, and piloting new initiatives to reduce truancy, improve parent engagement and address mental health and wellbeing.

The Bold Goal Coalition will begin forming working groups to identify the programs and strategies to be pursued in the coming months. To learn how your organization can join the Bold Goal Coalition, please contact WiL Fields, RRUW Director – Community Impact, at 334-323-2504 or [email protected].

All rights reserved, Gumptown Magazine. Copyright 2021.

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