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Mayors Stress Importance of Third-Grade Reading Proficiency

By Megan Cardiff
January 28, 2013


The ability of children to read at grade-level by the third grade is a “huge indicator for their future success,” proclaimed Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, Vice Chair of Grade-Level Reading for The U.S. Conference of Mayors Jobs, Education and the Workforce Standing Committee.

Under Taveras’ leadership, a group of mayors met January 19 during the 81st Annual U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting to discuss the critical importance of ensuring our children are reading at grade-level by the end of third grade. A vital partner in mayors’ efforts to achieve this goal is the Annie E. Casey Foundation, who has made third grade reading achievement an important element in their work through their support of the “Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.”

National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Managing Director Ralph Smith spoke on the panel about the need for mayors and local officials to work in conjunction with the school districts, school boards, and teachers to ensure children do better, emphasizing that the solution is not in the classroom but in the entire community. “This is quintessential mayor’s work. There is a narrative in this country that there is paralysis and gridlock—mayors can’t afford paralysis and gridlock.”

Also on the panel was Kansas City Mayor Sly James, who presented the successes of his program “Turn the Page Kansas City,” an education initiative that takes an umbrella approach to marshalling 50 community partners toward the goal of grade-level reading by third grade. James organized a Board of Directors for Turn the Page Kansas City, set it up as a 501(c)(3), and received a grant from the Bloomberg Foundation that assisted the organization in its efforts to train volunteers, monitor progress and coordinate curriculums and best practices in city school districts.

“What works in one city might not work in another,” said Taveras, “but we can learn best practices from one another and this is an opportunity as mayors for us to rally or communities around an issue.”