“This campaign creates a multi-faceted community approach to advance the education for our children,” said Tracie Fowler, President and CEO of United Way of Southeast MS. “Getting our kids reading at grade-level by the end of third grade will go a long way to improving the lives of families and growing stronger communities.”
Reading proficiency by the end of third grade is a critical milestone toward high school graduation and success later in life because it marks the transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Students who have not mastered reading by that time are more likely to dropout of high school and struggle throughout their lives.
During the 2014-2015 school year, less than 18 percent of Hattiesburg Public School District third graders showed proficiency in their reading state assessment. In 2015-2016, that percentage dropped to 16.
In Forrest and Lamar Counties, the GLR Campaign is supported by United Way of Southeast Mississippi’s Education Advisory Council and has been formed to address the education needs of the greater Hattiesburg area. This council consists of 20 members who represent a wide range of educational professionals and community education advocated from The University of Southern Mississippi, Lamar County School District, Petal School District, Hattiesburg Public School District and The 3-D School. In addition, there are representatives from Lamar County Education Foundation, Pearl River Valley Opportunity Head Start, The Area Development Partnership, School Status, MS Department of Education, The City of Hattiesburg, Venue Church and United Way SEMS.
The communities’ action plan addressed three underly challenges that can keep young children, especially those from low-income families, from learning to ready proficiently—school readiness, school attendance and summer learning.
“We are thrilled to welcome the newest members of our growing network of communities,” said Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. “Their commitment to this vital mission comes at a critical time when too many children are falling beyond the reach of schools. We need systems that can assure 24/7/365, two-generation supports and interventions. By taking up this challenge, Southeast Mississippi commits to do more, to do better and to make a difference in assuring more hopeful futures for the next generation.”
Membership in the GLR Communities Network gives Forrest and Lamar Counties access to experts and policymakers focused on early literacy, assistance in addressing the challenges that keep many children from learning to read and opportunities to share and learn best practices from more than 360 communities in 43 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada.