Published On: Fri, Jun 23rd, 2017

Is Delray Beach a City That Reads?

Sometime today, we should learn whether the City of Delray Beach was named an All-America City for a third year.

A contingency a city officials are attending the National Civic League conference in Denver where the announcement will be made. If the City wins the recognition this year, it would be the first community in Florida to be honored with this prestigious award three times. It won in 1993 and 2001.

Getting there though took some work, hard work, on the part of the community. This year’s All-America City competition focused on the work communities are doing to advance childhood literacy.
Much credit should go to Janet Meeks, the City’s education coordinator, who has been championing the cause for children from low-income families for many years. Very few public servants are as passionate about children’s issues at least publicly – as Meeks, who is been with the city for more than 25 years.

Meeks is prepared to make a three-minute pirate-themed presentation in support of the City’s entry. She will highlight the City’s ongoing collaborative efforts over the last five years to prepare children for kindergarten, reduce chronic absenteeism and increase participation in summer reading programs.

Last school year, slightly more than one half of all third graders in Palm Beach County met Florida’s standards in reading. Forty eight percent of those same students were reading well below grade level and were retained.

This year’s results were recently released and the number of third graders who earned a Level 3 or above in English inched slightly by 2 percentage points to 54 percent. Still, that was 4 percentage points lower than the statewide average of 58 percent.

Whatever the outcome in Denver – win or lose – the group will have a chance to share what they have learned and to learn from others.

Meeks and a small cadre of volunteers – educators, civic leaders, parents, nonprofit organizations – have put a stake in the ground around third-grade reading and made some big bets to ensure all children read proficiently by the end of third grade, the No. 1 predictor of high school graduation.

Studies show that children who do not read on grade level by third grade are more likely to drop out of high school. Those who read at proficient levels by third grade are more likely to complete high school prepared for college, a career and active citizenship.

This year’s winners will look different from the ‘classic All-America City Awards’ as the judges will be focusing heavily on community performance to ensure all children are reading at grade-level.

The winning communities must demonstrate they have moved the needle on outcomes for low-income children in at least two of the following community solutions areas: school readiness, school attendance, summer learning and grade-level reading.

The 2018 All-America City Award will be a return to the more standard application and process.

While there is no monetary reward for All-America City recognition would give the city bragging rights of the good work being done in our community to address one or more of the challenges that can undermine early literacy.

  1. Ron Allen can be reached at crallen@delraybeachtribune.com or 561-665-0151.

 

 

 

 

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