Marvell-Elaine and Springdale have been honored as Pacesetters by the National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading for exemplary work in eliminating barriers faced by children from low-income families on the path to becoming proficient readers.
Pacesetter Honors are among the highest awards presented by the Campaign for Grade Level Reading. “We are very proud of Marvell-Elaine and Springdale, and the numerous organizations and individuals behind the communities for joining forces and working tirelessly to uplift children and families. They remind us that we are seeing great progress and real results all across the country," said Ralph Smith, the managing director of the National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
“Our initiatives in these communities have produced partnerships between schools, communities, and parents that have utilized reliable data, tools, and strategies to support at-risk students in their early years of learning,” said Angela Duran, the campaign director for the Arkansas Campaign for Grade Level Reading, which partners with Marvell-Elaine and Springdale to provide grants and technical assistance. “This honor recognizes the hard work of school and community leaders to support kids and to close the achievement gap in Arkansas.”
Among the successes in Marvell-Elaine last year was a summer day camp attended by about half of the community’s children. Among the 2016 participants, 53 percent of third graders, 40 percent of second graders, and 55 percent of first graders increased reading levels. The camp was a partnership between the school district and the Boys, Girls, Adults Community Development Center, which created a rich experience by combining previously separate childcare programs.
Marvell-Elaine also moved the needle on attendance. A team consisting of Marvell-Elaine Elementary’s administrators, teachers, school nurse, and social worker used data to identify chronically absent students and intervene in sensitive ways to make sure kids made it to school. Their efforts reduced chronic absence rates among children in kindergarten through third grade from 17 percent in the 2013-2014 school year to 7 percent in 2014-2015, with kindergarten rates dropping from 27 percent to 3 percent.
“Our community-wide partnerships have helped Marvell-Elaine support low-income and at-risk students, making strides toward closing the educational achievement gap,” Sylvia Moore, principal at Marvell-Elaine Elementary School. “This honor represents the progress we’ve made—and is a call for our community to continue to work closely with schools, parents, policymakers, and other stakeholders.”
The National Campaign for Grade Level reading is recognizing Springdale for exemplary work in implementing school attendance strategies. The participating schools used Attendance Works’ School Attendance Tracking Tool to analyze chronic absence data and to look at subgroups broken down by grade, racial/ethnic group, free and reduced lunch status, English language learner status, disability status, and more.
This analysis has helped identify which subgroups had the highest chronic absence rates so that school staff could work with these groups to identify specific and culturally sensitive ways to support families and children as they tried to improve their school attendance. The schools have also found success by assigning mentors to children before absence becomes a bigger problem.
“As a result of our data-driven approach to addressing student attendance, we have been able to identify and support at-risk children with tools provided by Attendance Works and strategies aimed at intervening in the most effective ways,” said Maribel Childress, the principal of Monitor Elementary School.
The Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (AR-GLR), which partners with dozens of communities in the state in addition to Marvell-Elaine and Springdale, is supported by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and the Arkansas Community Foundation. “We are united by our goal to ensure that all Arkansas children read on grade level by the end of third grade,” Duran said.
Reading proficiency by the end of third grade is a critical milestone toward high school graduation and career success because it marks the transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” National tests show that two-thirds of U.S. fourth graders (four-fifths of whom are from low-income families) are not reading proficiently. In Arkansas, just 31 percent of third graders are reading on grade level. Students who have not mastered reading by that time are more likely to drop out of high school and struggle throughout their lives.