June 16th, 2017

AAC awards honor community-wide attendance, early reading success

Fifteen communities located across the country have been recognized for their efforts to boost attendance, improve grade-level reading proficiency and student success among low-income families. Honored with an All-America City Award (AAC), each community made progress by engaging families and collaborating with local educators, government, business, faith and philanthropy organizations.

The AAC Awards were presented during Grade-Level Reading Week in Denver, Colorado, a multi-day event that includes peer-learning workshops, presentations from AAC finalists, panel discussions and cultural showcases. Attendance Works helped organize several sessions, including a mini-plenary for funders on leveraging the Every Student Succeeds Act to address chronic absence, and three workshops.

The 2017 AAC Awards are sponsored by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and the National Civic League (NCL), which created the program 68 years ago. The awards are designed to shine a spotlight on trail-blazing efforts to bring all aspects of the community together to tackle the most pressing local issue, according to NCL.

“We applaud the ’big tent’ coalitions in these award-winning communities. They put a stake in the ground around third-grade reading and made some ‘big bets’ to improve the odds for early school success,” said Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. “Those big bets are paying off in more hopeful futures for so many vulnerable children in these communities.”

Communities are judged on efforts to improve attendance, school readiness and summer learning and that increase the number of students reading at grade level. Each of the fifteen winning communities had measurable progress in reducing chronic absence. You can read a summary of each community’s achievements on the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s website.

Some highlights include:

  • Springdale, Arkansas
    The percentage of first graders at Monitor Elementary School who were chronically absent decreased from 24 percent in 2012–13 to 10 percent in 2015–16. The percentage of third grade students who were reading at grade level increased from 35 percent in 2012–13 to 36.5 percent in 2015–16.
  • Stockton-San Joaquin County, California
    Countywide efforts to raise awareness of attendance-related issues led to a reduction of chronic absenteeism from 9 percent to 6.9 percent. Similarly, the number of low-income third graders who were reading at grade level increased from 20 percent in 2015 to 23 percent in 2016.
  • New Britain, Connecticut
    From 2013 to 2016, the percentage of low-income first-grade students who were chronically absent dropped from 25.1 percent in 2011–12 to 13.3 percent in 2015–16. New Britain also saw an increase from 35.7 percent in spring 2014 to 45.7 percent in spring 2016 in the percentage of second-grade students achieving reading proficiency.
  • Delray Beach, Florida
    Between 2011–12 and 2015–16, the percentage of low-income K–3 children who were chronically absent was reduced from 6.54 percent to 2.1 percent. In addition, Delray Beach saw an increase of 22 percent over two years in the number of low-income children reading proficiently.

In addition to the above winners, AAC awards were presented to communities in:

  • Suncoast (Manatee & Sarasota Counties), Florida
    Des Moines, Iowa
    Dubuque, Iowa
    Springfield, Massachusetts
    Kansas City, Missouri
    Montgomery County-Dayton, Ohio
    Lane County, Oregon
    San Antonio, Texas
    Roanoke, Virginia

“So many communities are doing a great job in using collaborative efforts to improve grade-level reading that it was hard to select this year’s award winners,” said Doug Linkhart, president of the National Civic League. “This year’s All-America Cities are engaging a diverse cross-section of residents, businesses, nonprofits and other stakeholders in the grade-level reading effort, which will help sustain their achievements over time.”

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