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River Region Bold Goal Coalition launches plan to boost student reading proficiency

More than seventy community leaders from across the River Region met in Montgomery yesterday and drafted an action plan to increase the number of Alabama children reading proficiently by the end of the third grade.

The River Region Bold Goal Coalition, an initiative of the River Region United Way, held a Formation Institute attended by representatives from the area’s civic, community, and education sectors.

Participants came from all five River Region Counties, Autauga, Elmore, Lowndes, Macon, and Montgomery, and included area school superintendents and state agency leaders. Dr. Eric Mackey, the state school superintendent for the Alabama State Department of Education, spoke about the importance of exposing children to literacy as early in a child’s life as possible. Exclaiming brighter days are ahead for Alabama students, Dr. Mackey, expressed his support for the Coalition’s vision and shared best practices for collaborating with schools and educators.

“The River Region United Way has convened The Bold Goal Coalition to foster collaboration across counties, community organizations, businesses, and schools,” said Ron Simmons, president and CEO of the River Region United Way.

“There are many issues and challenges preventing children from learning to read by the end of the third grade. No one person or group can solve these issues by themselves. What’s important is that we agree on a common set of outcomes that we influence, and actively work towards achieving them in service of our children.”

Research shows that a student’s ability to read by the end of the third grade is a strong predictor of that child’s future success. Students who continue to struggle after third grade are more likely to struggle in middle school and high school, less likely to graduate from high school, and less likely to be college and career-ready.

Third-grade reading is so essential that the State Legislature passed the Alabama Literacy Act, which will require public school students to repeat the third grade if they aren’t reading adequately.

Cosponsored by MGMWERX and Alabama Power, the Formation Institute focused on understanding the root causes and other circumstances that explain why some students struggle to read proficiently by the end of the third grade. In addition to reviewing academic proficiency and other school-based data, Bold Goal Coalition members reviewed, among others, regional poverty, health, and food insecurity statistics.

Coalition members focused their discussions on the relationship between the datasets, including patterns, systems, and other contributing factors that may explain why these outcomes exist. Coalition members then formed working groups to prioritize new and existing community-based initiatives to address the identified issues.

Among the themes identified by the Coalition were early education and care, family engagement and education, school attendance, out-of-classroom learning, and community partnerships. The Coalition established work groups for each of these areas and are identifying strategies to drive preferred outcomes in each area.

The River Region Bold Goal Coalition is modeled after the Alabama Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and similar efforts across the country, including in Birmingham. The River Region Bold Goal Coalition aims to become a StriveTogether community partner. StriveTogether is a national network of local communities striving to achieve racial equity and economic mobility. StriveTogether also facilitated the Formation Institute event.


Courtesy of The River Region United Way