Monday, February 13, 2012

Things That Make You Go Yes!

And now for a little good news.

The state of Minnesota has decided to do something to promote early childhood education. A multifaceted program to enhance literacy, starting with the preschool, is being introduced with funding from multiple sources.

Early literacy is emerging as the new front in the battle to narrow Minnesota's academic achievement gap between white and nonwhite students -- which persists as one of the largest gaps in the nation. From policymakers to schools and businesses, the urgency to ramp up reading has intensified as Minnesota schools grow increasingly diverse, particularly with more non-native English speakers. ...

Like states from Iowa to Florida, Minnesota's literacy push is centered on ensuring reading well by third grade -- a critical year when children shift from "learning to read" to "reading to learn." In 2011, about one in five Minnesota third-graders failed to read at basic levels, or nearly 13,000 students. Emerging research on brain development, a stronger reliance on student test scores and the state's latest goal to narrow the achievement gap to half by 2018 are further driving efforts.
[Emphasis added]

Being able to read is a critical skill for students, which is (I know) stating the obvious, yet in these years of "No Child Left Behind" and teaching to the test this skill is too often ignored. The place to start then is early in children's lives. Somebody finally gets it.

A child who isn't proficient in reading by third grade is four times more likely to drop out of high school than a proficient reader, according to a 2011 report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. ...

Legislators have taken note. Starting this fall, schools have to report reading scores to their communities and have a specific literacy plan. They will receive $85 for each third-grader who passes the state reading test or shows growth in reading -- part of up to $48 million in literacy incentive aid. Legislators also dedicated $5.5 million more to the Minnesota Reading Corps, a nine-year-old AmeriCorps program whose literacy tutors work with struggling 3-year-olds through third-graders.

What is such stunning good news is that it's not just the state government which is willing to put money where it counts, so are the Minnesota business and nonprofit communities:

The growing momentum is prompting state agencies, nonprofits, businesses and schools to collaborate more than ever.

Leaders of three state agencies are teaming up in the Children's Cabinet, a collaboration that helped the state score a competitive $45 million Race to the Top early education grant announced in December. Target, Cargill, General Mills and Medtronic combined last year to give $13 million to Minneapolis schools over three years, with Target's $6 million going toward reading initiatives.

Go read the entire, rather lengthy article and discover what a little common sense and a lot of dedication can accomplish. Then match it with the education efforts in your community and state. If your schools aren't matching up, do the right thing and ask your school board and state legislators to do something about it.

Hillary Clinton was right: it does take a village to raise a child.

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