Florida communities have been an active part of the GLR Campaign from the outset, but now the state is taking the work to a new level, launching the statewide Florida Grade-Level Reading Campaign.
Eight Florida communities filed Community Solutions Action Plans and joined the GLR Communities Network as charter members in 2012. Since then, two other communities have joined, and four more currently are developing their plans. And the work in communities has been noteworthy, with three earning 2014 Pacesetter honors for measurable progress on summer learning: Delray Beach’s summer reading program saw an 11 percent increase in the number of students assessed as “early fluent” or fluent; all participants in Sarasota’s summer programming either maintained or increased their reading levels; and in Tampa, 97 percent of students in the Tampa Summer Care program maintained or increased their reading levels.
The Florida Grade-Level Reading Campaign will build on this strong start, seeking to create a statewide movement to promote school readiness and quality instruction, tackle chronic absence, improve summer learning and engage parents as their children’s first teachers. With support from the Helios Foundation, the Florida GLR Campaign will provide technical assistance to the 14 existing communities, encourage other communities to address grade-level reading, and work to align and mobilize complementary efforts targeting children in the early years and early grades. This will be accomplished largely through four networks:
- Network of Community Leaders, which will serve as a learning community for the local GLR communities to share best practices, facilitate a focus on measurable outcomes and foster the creation of proof points to inspire additional efforts across the state;
- Early Childhood Thought Leaders, which will draw on research, fiscal and resource mapping, proven and promising programs and practices, and lessons emerging from the community grade-level reading efforts to shape three-, five- and ten-year plans to improve child and family outcomes in the state;
- Florida Business Leaders Alliance, which will work in partnership with the Florida Chamber of Commerce to promote business sector engagement in supporting increased prominence, funding and understanding of critical early childhood initiatives; and
- Funders Collaborative, which will work with the Florida Philanthropic Network to convene local and state funders committed to improving child and family outcomes and education in order to assure support for both the state campaign and local grade-level reading efforts.
Besides the groups named above, Florida’s “big tent” includes key organizations that have pledged to partner with the Florida GLR Campaign, among which are: the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet, Early Learning Advisory Council, Children’s Movement, United Way of Florida and Nemours Brightstart.
The Florida GLR Campaign is housed at the Florida Children’s Council, which works at the state level to effectuate change in policies, programs and services for Florida’s children and families by: educating policymakers and other key leaders about what is working in communities; advancing a prevention and early intervention agenda; and building partnerships with those interested in making strategic investments in the state’s children and families. The Council is the member organization of Florida’s Children’s Services Councils. These Councils in themselves represent a tangible commitment to children on the part of Florida voters in eight counties that have taken advantage of state law allowing the creation of special districts to fund gaps in children’s services. Collectively, the Councils cover 50 percent of Florida’s children.
Children’s Services Councils are among the supporters of local grade-level reading efforts and lead several of the sponsoring coalitions. In addition to the Councils, there are many other key contributors to success on grade-level reading in Florida’s communities, including leadership from United Way, Early Learning Coalitions that oversee local use of state funds, and the philanthropic sector.
Finally, another recent development in the state holds promise to help accelerate progress, particularly in the area of school readiness. Organizational and budgetary realignment now connects the state’s early childhood efforts to the education system. The Florida Campaign has seized this as an opportunity to highlight the connection between high-quality early learning experiences, especially for children from low-income families, and third-grade reading proficiency. Given widespread consensus about the importance of grade-level reading, that message is beginning to prompt efforts at quality improvement in birth to 5 programming.