Dubuque Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Selected as 2013 Pacesetter

community_summer_academy_webDubuque’s campaign to improve reading proficiency among its youngest students has been recognized as a 2013 Community Pacesetter by the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, an honor that reflects the energy, mobilization and creativity that the local community has brought to this important work.

“The City of Dubuque is proud to play a part in helping our community achieve third grade reading success,” said Dubuque Mayor Roy D. Buol. “We congratulate all of our partners who are working together to address this issue locally and who have once again made Dubuque a National Pacesetter community. This recognition reaffirms the focus of the City’s strategic plan, which is to mobilize community, family and policy makers to create a knowledgeable workforce for the future.”

In 2011, Every Child/Every Promise, in strategic alliance with the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, brought together experts from schools, colleges, nonprofits, business, city government and philanthropy to discuss how to improve the reading proficiency of Dubuque’s students by the end of third grade. The coalition created a plan to drive improvement in three areas: school readiness (children are not ready to learn when they show up for school), school attendance (children miss too many days of school) and summer learning (many children in early grades lose ground over the summer).

The plan gained a huge vote of confidence when it was selected as one of 14 recipients from a field of more than 100 entries for the 2012 All-America City Award.

Now known as the Dubuque Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (DCGLR), the coalition is one of 140 communities working with the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a nationwide movement of local leaders, states, nonprofits, and foundations putting a stake in the ground on third-grade reading. The communities are adopting a collective impact strategy, engaging the full community around the goal of supporting low-income children from birth through third grade.

Acknowledging that schools alone cannot address all the challenges that keep children from learning to read, these organizations work with nonprofits and other partners to ensure that children arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed, attend school regularly and keep learning through the summer months.

“As a school district, we have long worked to ensure reading success—but we know it goes beyond time in the classroom,” said Stan Rheingans, superintendent of the Dubuque Community School District. “The widespread community commitment to grade-level reading in Dubuque, highlighted by tremendous partnerships, is truly focused on making students more successful. There is much work to still be done, but we are honored to be recognized as a leader in our holistic approach to reading achievement.”

Highlights of the Dubuque Campaign’s first year progress in its three target areas include:

  • School Attendance: Through a pilot program at Dubuque’s most at-risk elementary schools, chronic absence was reduced from 7% to 2% and the number of students who attended 98% of the time went from 22% to 24%
  • Summer Learning: The Summer Academy, led by St. Mark Youth Enrichment and supported by dozens of community partners, helped 84% of 47 participating 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders to maintain or improve their reading proficiency over summer break.
  • School Readiness: More than 100 high school juniors and seniors enrolled for new “pathway to early childhood development career courses,” dual credit courses offered by the Dubuque Community School District and Northeast Iowa Community College to address the growing need for highly skilled preschool and daycare providers.

The Dubuque Campaign for Grade-Level Reading released its Year One Progress Update describing its work, challenges and lessons for other communities on its website at

“We are impressed and inspired by what Dubuque has accomplished so far, said Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and a senior vice president at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “ With its commitment, resourcefulness and collaborative spirit, the Dubuque Campaign for Grade-Level Reading truly is setting the pace and providing a model for communities across the nation who are seeking to give more children from low-income families a chance at a brighter future.”

Dubuque is one of 35 Pacesetters named for 2013. It also received a the Pacesetter honor in 2012 and was honored by as a Together for Tomorrow Challenge winner for the 2012-2013 school year by the U.S. Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

“Every Child/Every Promise and the Community Foundation are proud to partner to facilitate the Dubuque Campaign,” said Eric Dregne, Community Foundation vice president of strategic initiatives. “We are grateful for all of the partner organizations, including state and national partners like the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which are helping to make Dubuque’s Campaign for Grade-Level Reading a national leader.”

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