Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
From 2011 to 2020, Excel by Eight was known as the Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (AR-GLR) and focused on improving parent and community engagement, school readiness, classroom instruction, attendance, and summer learning. Here are highlights of our previous work.
Community Solutions Initiative
From 2013 to 2018, the Community Solutions Initiative (CSI) supported parents, schools, and communities working together to achieve the goal of ensuring all Arkansas children can read at grade level by the end of third grade. CSI sites were AR Kids Read, Eudora Reads, Marvell-Elaine Reads, MLK Reads and One Community Reads, Una Comunidad Leyendo!. With support from the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, CSI sites mobilized local stakeholders to implement community-based solutions for local grade-level reading challenges. Over the six year duration, the initiative achieved the following outcomes:
Eudora Reads engaged more than 200 families through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a summer learning program, and the Parent Mentor program
One Community Reads, Una Comunidad Leyendo! engaged nearly 45 Latinx and Marshallese families in Parents Taking Leadership Action
Marvell-Elaine Reads provided a summer day camp, which incorporated the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School, for more than half of the students enrolled in the elementary school
MLK Reads provided tutoring to approximately 50 students a year at Martin Luther King Elementary School in Little Rock
AR Kids Read provided tutoring to more than 900 students in Pulaski County annually
Make Every Day Count
Attendance is critical to academic success. When children go to school regularly in kindergarten and first grade, they are more likely to read proficiently by the end of third grade and are less prone to drop out of high school. Unfortunately, more than one in 10 Arkansas kindergarteners and first graders are chronically absent.
Students from low-income families are twice as likely to be chronically absent.
In 2013, Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (AR-GLR) partnered with Attendance Works to launch Make Every Day Count to help schools, districts, and communities track chronic absences and implement plans to keep kids in the classroom. After AR-GLR worked with more than 40 school districts, the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) included chronic absence in their Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan. Today, the ADE also provides ongoing support to schools and districts through its Education Renewal Zone directors.
Summer Learning Initiative
Children—particularly those from low-income backgrounds—lose two to three months of reading skills during the summer. Known as the “summer slide,” this can leave some children up to three years behind their peers by the end of fifth grade. Accessible high-quality programs can help prevent this learning loss.
The Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading partnered with the Arkansas Community Foundation from 2016 – 2019 to offer funding to communities working to increase reading levels through the Summer Learning Initiative (SLI). Grantees kept kids engaged with activities and projects designed for academic and social enrichment.
SLI grantees braided existing state and federal funding sources to support summer learning programs. SLI sites were Booneville School District, Clinton School District, Drew Central School District, Horatio School District, Hot Springs Family YMCA, Mt. Judea Area Alliance, Ouachita Children’s Center and Park Avenue Elementary School in Stuttgart. Over the four-year period, communities achieved the following outcomes:
Incoming kindergarten students who attended Booneville School District’s four-week Summer Learning Program had higher scores on fluency than students who did not.
Of the kindergarten through third-grade students who attended Clinton School District’s three-week summer program, 60 percent moved up one proficiency level in oral reading fluency and 76% improved in letter-sound recognition and blending.
Drew Central School District offered kindergarten and first-grade students a four-week program called Camp Learn a Lot. All first graders maintained or improved their nonsense word fluency, and 90% improved or maintained their oral reading fluency.
Horatio School District provided a six-week program, Reach Out and Read, to kindergarten through fifth grade students. Nearly two-thirds showed an increase in the phonetic skills necessary to being a strong reader.
The Hot Springs YMCA and Lakeside Primary School offered a six-week program to incoming first-grade and second-grade students. On average, rising first graders moved from a .9 grade level equivalent to a 1.3.
The Mt. Judea Area Alliance and the Deer/Mt. Judea School District provided a summer learning camp to kindergarten through eighth grade students. Nearly a third improved their reading scores. The remainder maintained their levels.
Nearly 80 percent of kindergarten through second-grade students who attended a full-day summer learning program provided by Ouachita Children’s Center and the Hot Springs School District increased their reading scores.
At Park Avenue Elementary School in Stuttgart, kindergarten through fifth-grade students participated in a five-week program. Incoming first graders increased their scores by the end of the summer camp by 14 percent.