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Transforming a Generation: 90% Literacy by Third Grade
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What Is Moonshot Moment

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.


Together, we can make Indian River County a beacon of literacy achieve­ment and a shining exam­ple of responsible citizen engagement.




 

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