An ambitious plan to ensure that more Dubuque children are reading at grade level by the end of third grade has been chosen as a finalist for the All-America City Award, sponsored each year by the National Civic League.
Dubuque was also selected as one of 24 finalists for Pacesetter Honors, communities chosen for their progress or outstanding contributions in school readiness, school attendance, summer learning and state-level leadership, or for their support of the Campaign, the Network, and/or the All-America City Award Process.
The plan was submitted by a community coalition that includes: Carnegie Stout Public Library; City of Dubuque; Clarke University; Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque; Crescent Community Health Center; Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce; Dubuque Community School District; Dubuque Community School District Foundation; Dubuque County Early Childhood; Every Child/Every Promise; Four Oaks: Parents as Teachers; Greater Dubuque Development Corporation; Holy Family Schools; Iowa State University Extension & Outreach; Loras College; Multicultural Family Center; Northeast Iowa Community College; Operation New View: Head Start; St Mark’s Community Center; and the University of Dubuque. Dubuque is one of 32 finalists selected through a peer review process from a field of more than 100 entries from across the country. Winners will be announced July 2 in Denver, Colo.
Beyond the award contest, Dubuque’s plan makes the city a charter member in a national movement of local leaders, nonprofits and foundations putting a stake in the ground on third-grade reading. That milestone marks the point when children shift from learning to read and begin reading to learn. Students who haven’t mastered reading by then are more likely to get stuck in a cycle of academic failure, drop out of school, and struggle throughout their lives.
“This initiative is critical to improving the futures of Dubuque’s most vulnerable children. We, as a community, must make it a priority to provide the resources necessary for them to develop the reading skills required for success in today’s world,” said Dubuque Mayor Roy D. Buol. “Congratulations to the coalition members on this acknowledgement of their work to date. This is another example of a public/private partnership to improve the quality of life in Dubuque.”
The 124 cities and counties involved in the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Community Network are adopting a collective impact strategy, engaging the full community around the goal of supporting low-income children from birth through third grade. The plans involve schools but acknowledge that they alone cannot address the myriad problems that keep children from learning to read. The strategies include ensuring that children arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed, attend school regularly and keep learning through the summer months.
Every Child/Every Promise, in strategic alliance with the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, has committed to facilitating the Dubuque coalition that will carry out the community’s third grade reading plan. To increase school readiness, the coalition plans to connect more four-year-olds to preschool, expand opportunities for three-year-olds, and partner with local colleges to provide professional development for teachers, para-educators, and childcare providers. This process will ensure that early learning aligns with the primary grades. To ensure continued summer learning, the plan will integrate learning strategies into existing summer programming and identify an effective approach to Title I summer reading programs. To address chronic absence, the coalition will organize an attendance campaign, ensuring that at-risk families receive the support they need, and enlisting business partners as mentors.
As a charter member of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Community Network, Dubuque will have access to a Promising Practices Clearinghouse, an online help desk, peer-learning opportunities, meetings with national experts and policymakers, and a foundation registry designed to expand and replicate successful programs.
“These honors are the result of collaboration among parents, neighbors, public and nonprofit agencies, community organizations, businesses, and civic leaders,” said Nancy Van Milligen, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque. “By continuing to work together, Dubuque will undoubtedly succeed in increasing the numbers of students reading at grade-level by the end of third grade and close the achievement gaps for minority students and students in poverty.”