The GLR Campaign and National Civic League recognize Ames, Iowa, as a 2017 finalist for the All-America City Awards. Ames is cited for reporting measurable progress in school readiness, school attendance, summer learning and overall grade-level reading for children from families with low incomes, as well as for exemplary efforts in promoting civic engagement and inclusiveness. Ames Reads is a cross-sector coalition involving local government, nonprofit agencies and regional organizations to ensure that all children (a) enter kindergarten ready to learn; (b) read at grade level by the end of third grade; and (c) graduate from high school. The coalition has successfully partnered with area health care providers, WIC, a federally funded health care center, human service agencies and food pantries to engage and serve families with low incomes. Local citizens, faith groups and businesses generously volunteer and financially support their work.
In Ames Community School District (ACSD), subgroups of students from families with low incomes have shown improvement in multiple areas. From 2014 to 2016, kindergartners showed a 19 percent improvement in meeting the benchmark for school readiness and literacy. More young children attended school more regularly, as a result of ACSD’s use of an Early Indicator System to track children at risk of dropping out. Once a student is identified, district teams develop plans to address barriers to attendance. Between the 2012–13 and 2015–16 school years, the rate of chronic absence among pre-K–3 students from families with low incomes declined from 10.24 percent to 8.73 percent, a slightly more than 15 percent improvement. In the Little Cyclone Summer Enrichment program, the percentage of children moving from not proficient to proficient increased from 10.11 percent in 2015 to 17.03 percent in 2016. The third-grade students at all elementary schools went from 80.19 percent proficient in reading in 2014–15 to 83.18 percent in 2015–16.