June 16, Gulfport received the National Education “Pacesetters” Award by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading at City Hall.

Thirty communities across the nation were named as 2014 “Pacesetters” by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, recognizing their measurable progress in addressing some of the problems low-income children face in becoming proficient readers. Each of the 30 honorees has been a part of the national network that is working to improve student outcomes in at least one of three focus areas: increasing school readiness, reducing chronic absenteeism and improving summer learning among low-income children. Gulfport has especially been focused since 2012 on school readiness through early education, summer learning loss, and after school tutoring. Sherri Killins from the GLR office will attend the City Council meeting on June 16, 2015 at 1:30 pm to make the presentation to the Council.

The Pacesetter honorees were selected from among 76 communities in the Grade-Level Reading Communities Network (a division of the Annie E. Casey Foundation) that participated in a series of activities in 2014 designed to strengthen their work. Across the country, communities completed rigorous self-assessments of their progress, mobilized local constituencies through events such as Summer Learning Day and Attendance Awareness Month. All targets were set by a local community council that made a Community Solutions Action Plans.

The 2014 Pacesetter Communities include:

Fresno, CA
Ames, IA
Kansas City, MO
Stockton-San Joaquin, CA
Quad Cities, IA/IL
Gulfport, MS
Tahoe Truckee, CA
Council Bluffs, IA
Wake County, NC
Bridgeport, CT
Des Moines, IA
Paterson, NJ
Hartford, CT
Dubuque, IA
Las Vegas, NV
New Britain, CT
Marshalltown, IA
Buffalo, NY
Delray Beach, FL
Topeka, KS
Providence, RI
Sarasota, FL
Holyoke, MA
San Antonio, TX
Tampa, FL
Pittsfield, MA
Richmond, VA
Waukegan, IL
Springfield, MA
Roanoke, VA

Detailed profiles describing each community’s progress are available on the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s website at www.gradelevelreading.net.

“The growth and progress that we’re seeing across the Campaign network is nothing short of inspiring,” said Ralph Smith, VP at Annie Casey Foundation, and managing director of the GLR Campaign. “These Pacesetters truly represent hope for American educational attainment, particularly for children from low-income families. Whether it’s preparing kids for kindergarten, attacking the ‘summer slide’ or boosting elementary attendance, these communities are demonstrating that we all can make a difference.”

National tests show that two-thirds of U.S. fourth graders, and four-fifths of those from low-income families, are not reading proficiently. Reading proficiency by the end of third grade is a milestone on a child’s path to high school graduation and later success 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 drop out of school and struggle throughout their lives.

The award winners are part of a nationwide campaign – now operating in 167 communities — that is committed to increasing the number of low-income children who are reading at grade level by the end of third grade. Gulfport is currently the only city in Mississippi to be a member of the Grade-Level Reading Communities Network that now includes 2,100 local organizations at work in 41 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“We can’t expect our public school systems to solve this problem on their own,” Smith added. “If we’re going to close the achievement gap, we need mobilized communities – like these Pacesetters — working with schools, city agencies, nonprofits, civic leaders and parents to focus on third grade reading.”

Gulfport’s One Coast Education Council began work in 2012 and is proud to have received this national distinction. Members have included the school districts of Gulfport, Harrison County Schools, Long Beach, the Boys and Girls Clubs, Head Start, United Way of South MS and Dirk Barrient from the Business Council.

All of the Campaign’s Pacesetter communities and states were formally recognized at a reception on April 24, 2015, at a Funder-to-Funder Huddle hosted by the Campaign in San Francisco.

*For media inquiries, contact Sam Evans | 228-896-2213 ext 7111