Dubuque was named an All-America City by the National Civic League on July 2 based on its ambitious plan to ensure that more children are reading at grade level by the end of third grade. The community was one of 14 awardees selected from 32 finalists.
Chosen from a field of more than 100 entries, Dubuque’s plan was submitted by a community coalition facilitated by Every Child/Every Promise in strategic alignment with the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque. The coalition includes: Alliant Energy; Carnegie Stout Public Library; Clarke University; Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque; City of Dubuque; Crescent Community Health Center; Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce; Dubuque Community School District; Dubuque Community School District Foundation; Dubuque County Early Childhood; Dubuque Racing Association (Mystique Casino and Diamond Jo Casino); 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; University of Dubuque; and St Mark Community Center.
“This honor is 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.”
“This is a tremendous honor for our community to be named an All-America City twice in just five years,” said Dubuque Mayor Roy D. Buol. “This award recognizes the role all citizens have in helping our children achieve reading skills, necessary skills all citizens need to be successful contributing members of this great city and nation. I encourage everyone to help us continue to meet this challenge by getting involved in Dubuque’s third grade reading strategy.”
In addition to being named an All-America City, Dubuque was also named a Community Solutions PaceSetter by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading for its exemplary leadership and innovation in addressing the vexing challenges that keep many low-income students from learning to read proficiently. The Community Solutions Pacesetter Honors recognize places that are already developing community solutions to the challenges that can undermine early literacy, such as chronic absenteeism, summer learning loss and a lack of school readiness.
Beyond the award contest, Dubuque’s plan makes the city a charter member in the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Communities Network, a national movement of local and state 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.
The awards are given each year by the National Civic League for outstanding civic accomplishments. Ordinarily, applicants choose their own local projects to showcase, but this year NCL is teaming with the Campaign to encourage community-based partnerships to improve reading proficiency among young students.
“This partnership with the Campaign has been an amazing experience for our All-America City Awards,” said Gloria Rubio-Cortes, president of the National Civic League which has sponsored the award for more than 60 years. “We were overwhelmed by the quality, passion and thoughtfulness of all the action plans submitted by more than 100 cities, towns and regions. There is a real and deep commitment to ensuring that our children are prepared to succeed.”
The 124 cities and counties in the network, representing 350 school districts with 8 million students, are adopting a collective impact strategy, engaging the full community around the goal of supporting low-income children from birth through third grade.
The Dubuque 3rd Grade Reading Coalition plans to expand or scale programs and implement innovative new approaches, integrate national programs into the community network, work to incorporate summer learning into the year-round curriculum and adapt promising practices from outside the community and scale best practices within the district to target the five percent of students who are chronically absent. Through these efforts, the city aims to raise the percentage of third grade students reading at grade level from 86 percent to 90 percent or higher.
As a charter member of the 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.