The Gulfport, MS, Grade-Level Reading Campaign is recognized as a 2014 Pacesetter for making measurable progress on student readiness outcomes. During 2013-14, 100 students were enrolled in a free preschool program led by a certified teacher and assistant (up from 60 the year before). All students enrolled–100%–made significant progress in readiness skills, and 99% entered school fully ready for kindergarten.
In order to achieve and sustain progress, the local Campaign is supporting implementation of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library and Reach Out and Read. Gulfport is also formally designated as a Mississippi Excel by 5 community. In conjunction with that designation, Gulfport has engaged a team of volunteers who are working to increase community awareness of the need for early education for children ages 0-5 by hosting community events, producing community resource guides for distribution, and generating a media campaign to raise awareness.
The Gulfport GLR Campaign reaches approximately 765 low-income children across seven school districts. In partnership with the Harrison County School District, the local Campaign regularly tracks the readiness skills from low-income families who participate in a 4-year-old preschool program. The local Campaign also tracks the following indicators as key measures of its overall impact on student outcomes: percent of children from low-income families in accredited child-care settings, including publicly funded programs, Head Start and home-based providers; the percent of children from low-income families ages 1-5 whose families read to them 3 days or more per week; and the percent of children from low-income families ages 1-5 whose families talk or sing to them every day.
Reflecting on the community’s progress since it joined the Campaign in 2012, local GLR Lead, Cindy Walker, commented, “There have been times in the last two years when moving the needle in our community toward understanding how early learning impacts a child’s ability to read on grade level by 3rd grade has felt like an uphill climb. But with dedicated support from agencies and individuals, Gulfport is now proudly able to say that we are setting the pace for communities in Mississippi! We could not be more excited!”
The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading proudly recognizes the shared ownership for the progress in Gulfport among the following members of the local sponsoring coalition:
- United Way of South Mississippi, Inc.
- Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber
- Rotary International of Gulfport
- The Nourishing Place Education Support Organization
- Mississippi Power Company
- South Mississippi PreK4ward
- Gulf Coast Business Council
- Gulfport Schools
- Hancock Human Resources Agency
- City of Gulfport, Office of the Mayor
- Excel By Five
- Bay Waveland Schools
- The Harrison County Schools
- Boys & Girls Clubs