Suncoast (Manatee & Sarasota Counties), Florida
The GLR Campaign and National Civic League recognize the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR), covering Manatee and Sarasota Counties, Florida, as a 2017 finalist for the All-America City Awards. SCGLR is cited for reporting measurable progress in school attendance and overall grade-level reading for children from low-income families, as well as for exemplary efforts in promoting civic engagement and inclusiveness. SCGLR was formed in 2015 with the support of The Patterson Foundation, when Sarasota County, under the leadership of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, and Manatee County, under the leadership of United Way of Manatee County, both agreed to adopt a regional approach to the Campaign’s solutions areas. SCGLR has built a strong collaborative multisector coalition involving not-for-profits, government agencies, faith-based organizations, businesses, individuals and the media. SCGLR works to regionally align funding priorities, data collection and sharing, and key strategies of the GLR Campaign. To strengthen parental engagement, the campaign went deep into the community, recruiting 300 families to participate in a pilot of Vroom, and is now spreading Vroom widely throughout the region. A two-generation approach is evident in Sarasota County in four Title 1 schools as parents attend Parent University, taking courses based on their needs. A community-wide messaging campaign including a poster contest to increase awareness on the importance of attendance saw a reduction in chronic absenteeism among targeted students of three percentage points in both counties. The two-county focus also has accelerated and strengthened community-wide efforts to improve third-grade reading scores. The percentage of third graders reading at grade level increased, for example, from 3 to 4 percentage points in three Title 1 elementary schools in Sarasota from 2015 to 2016, and overall from 67 percent to 80 percent in five Title 1 elementary schools in Manatee County.