Keeping a Promise to Today’s Kindergarteners: Baltimore Campaign for Grade Level Reading

FFEE_3-25-11_0032 - cropWhen our city’s newest students start kindergarten this year, they and their families will feel the same sense of hope and excitement that always comes with the beginning of the school year. What they may not realize is that they also represent a promise that their city will provide them with the educational opportunities they need to reach one of the most important achievement benchmarks of their school careers: reading on grade level by the end of third grade.

This is the goal of the Baltimore Campaign for Grade Level Reading, a citywide coalition committed to doubling the number of students reading on grade level by 2020. To get a sense of the scope of the problem, consider this: only 14 percent of Baltimore City fourth graders scored at the proficient or advanced reading level on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). That number should compel all of us to join with the Campaign this school year in thinking about what needs to be happening in our city and school district to allow our new kindergarteners, and all our children, to meet this third grade reading goal. For instance:

  • Working with schools and city agencies to offer quality, affordable pre-k options—especially in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty— and reaching out to parents to encourage them to enroll their children in these programs, so that our youngest students enter kindergarten ready to learn.
  • Providing a variety of safe, fun, convenient, and educational out of school opportunities for students during the school year and over the summer.
  • Giving parents the information they need to understand and track what their children should know at each grade level.
  • Asking good questions about what is happening in our schools, and holding teachers and school leaders accountable for student achievement.
  • Encouraging students to read independently and with other adults for at least 15 minutes every day of school and vacation.
  • Communicating the need to attend school every day and on time. A recent study by the Baltimore Education Research Consortium (BERC) found that students who missed 2 or more days in September were significantly more likely to be chronically absent for the year, a clear demonstration of the critical importance of establishing good attendance habits in the first 30 days of school.

Certainly, reading on third grade level is just one of many goals we need to have as we start this school year. Implementing Common Core, focusing on college readiness, improving the value proposition of high school, the 21st Century Building project, and building a stronger pool of teachers and school leaders are other critical district priorities that come to mind. But, think of how much easier many of those goals will be to achieve if we can start by saying that we were able to successfully change the educational experience that these kindergarteners, and all those that follow, had in their first four years of school.

The Fund is proud to serve as the host organization for the Campaign and we encourage all of you to get involved in this effort. Check out the website, and become part of the coalition by registering to receive newsletters, and by following the Campaign on Facebook and Twitter. Remember that the power and success of a collective action initiative rests on all of us.