To address this problem, in 2012 Strategies for Children founded the Massachusetts Third Grade Reading Proficiency Learning Network, a targeted group of communities committed to aligning research, policy and practice to ensure that children have access to high-quality early education and become proficient readers by the end of third grade. Together, the network’s five founding members—Boston, Holyoke, Pittsfield, Springfield and Worcester—are home to more than 100,000 children, birth to age 9. All five applied for the 2012 All-America City Award, which focused on community efforts to improve early literacy.
SFC is providing technical assistance to member communities and convening the network quarterly to share and learn best practices. In the first year, the cities will map assets and refine their strategic plans. To assist communities in this process, SFC is creating an innovative template, informed by successful public health campaigns, that places programs on a continuum with raising awareness at one end and changed behavior at the other. The approach holds great potential to help other communities, both in Massachusetts and other states.
Like SFC’s complementary “Leading the Conversation” initiative, the learning network is designed to help communities implement the recommendations contained in "Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success," which SFC commissioned in 2010 from Nonie Lesaux, a nationally known literacy expert at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The report also informs An Act Relative to Third Grade Reading Proficiency, which Governor Deval Patrick signed into law in September 2012.
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