What does it take to get 90% of kids ready for K and reading by third grade in such a way that we create literate, compassionate, citizens who can change our world?
(View our latest Moonshot Moment Fact Sheet, November, 2016)
Original Moonshot Moment Letter from Dr. Fran Adams,
Founder of the Moonshot Moment Goal,
Former Superintendent of Schools for Indian River County
September 1, 2012
Unlike the ability to speak, the human brain is not hard-wired for reading -it is a skill that must be learned. The work begins at the very beginning of a child's life, with prenatal care to ensure that children are born healthy and develop on track so they are thriving at 3 and ready for school by 5 years old.
Success involves parents drenching their children in words, spoken and written. It means strong preschool experiences that align with the elementary curricula. It requires high quality teaching in every setting for every child, every day, beginning in infancy.
Third grade marks a critical milestone for students when the focus shifts from learning to read, to the expectation that students will read in order to learn. An alarming two-thirds of all children nationally and fourth-fifths of economically disadvantaged children are not reaching this critical third-grade milestone.
Indian River County children are no different. Forty percent of our students are not academically ready for kindergarten. By third grade, students who are not reading at grade level have only a one in seven chance of ever catching up. They are four times more likely to leave high school without a diploma, leaving them stuck in a cycle of academ ic failure and a lifetime of struggle.
This is no longer just an educational issue, but one with serious implications for our community's long term prosperity. Statistics show that 85 percent of juvenile delinquents are functionally illiterate, as are 70 percent of all pris oners, with some states even basing the number of prisons they will build on third grade reading scores.
With such far-reaching consequences, an effective solution goes beyond the confines of the School District, calling for the whole community to become involved.
In the summer of 2012, the School District set a goal to have 90 percent of all third grade students reading at grade level by 2018. We know of only one other school district in the nation bold enough to set such an aggressive goal. This is our moonshot moment, setting us on a path toward becoming our country's leading learning and literacy community.
For the past two years, the School District has collaborated with The Learning Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing teachers with the latest advances in science-based educational techniques. The Learning Alliance has trained more than 300 local teachers and tutors and helped more than 2,000 students in 12 elementary schools and summer learning programs. The result has been a staggering 171 per cent improvement in kindergarten and first grade literacy scores.
Our experience with The Learning Alliance is a perfect example of what Jamie Vollmer, an award winning champion of public education, has been saying for years -- schools can no longer do it alone. Success requires meaningful community conversations to inform long-term solutions that do not start and stop at the schoolroom door. School readiness, attendance and summer learning loss, as well as properly aligned systems of care, services and family supports for every child from birth through third grade will be critical in achieving the 90 percent goal.
To that end, the School District has been actively seeking cross-sector partnerships with civic and business leaders, governmental agencies and nonprofit organizations. We have recently been encouraged by the formation of a small group of "Literacy Leaders" in cluding the Chamber of Commerce, The United Way, Indian River Community Foundation, Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers, McCabe Foundation, and others who have joined together to not only embrace the 90 percent goal, but help bring others to the table as well.
Over the coming months, this group will cast their net wider as we begin to develop a community-wide strategic plan to ensure our children can not only read well by the end of third grade, but also are ready to become excellent learners, achievers and citizens of our community. We are certain to face challenges along the way, but we must put forth the effort for our children.
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Together, we can make Indian River County a beacon of literacy achievement and a shining example of responsible citizen engagement.