Mayor Sly James and Turn the Page KC are happy to announce that Kansas City, MO, has earned national recognition as recipient of the All-American City Award (AAC) for accomplishments in improving education outcomes for children age 0-8. Kansas City is one of just 15 communities nationwide to receive the award from the National Civic League during Grade-Level Reading Week in Denver, Colorado.  A five-time winner of the All-America City Award, Kansas City is cited for reporting measurable progress in school attendance, summer learning and overall grade-level reading for children from low-income families, as well as for exemplary efforts in promoting civic engagement and inclusiveness.

“Turn the Page KC is a catalyst, but our community shares this honor. The collective effort of organizations, educators, parents and volunteers means all Kansas City kids, regardless of their family’s income, can acquire the skills needed for success,” said Mayor James.

Soon after being elected in 2011, Mayor Sly James began mobilizing the community to tackle the third grade reading crisis. In 2012, only 33 percent of third graders citywide were proficient readers. In 2016, the percentage of students scoring proficient or above on state assessments increased to 53 percent citywide. Chronic absenteeism, defined as missing 10 percent of the school year or more, decreased from 14 percent in the 2012–13 school year to 10 percent in the 2015–16 school year. Finally, the number of K-3 students attending a summer academic enrichment program has increased by 400 percent since 2013.

“We applaud the ’big tent’ coalitions in these award-winning communities. They put a stake in the ground around third-grade reading and made some ‘big bets’ to improve the odds for early school success,” said Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. “Those big bets are paying off in more hopeful futures for so many vulnerable children in these communities.”

The 2017 All America City Award winners are communities that:

  • Demonstrated they have moved the needle on outcomes for children from low-income families in at least two of the following community solutions areas: school readiness, school attendance, summer learning and/or grade-level reading.
  • Addressed the National Civic League’s key process criteria of civic engagement, cross-sector collaboration and inclusiveness.
  • Created a plan for sustainability and for aligning, linking, stacking and bundling proven and the most promising programs, practices, and strategies.

“This award reflects the progress Kansas City, MO, has achieved in preparing more young children for kindergarten, reducing chronic absenteeism, and promoting summer reading so that children retain the skills they learned in the first years of school,” said Mike English, Executive Director of Turn the Page KC. During his remarks at the All-American City Award gathering in Denver, English reflected on the growing activism of Kansas City residents and increased access to opportunities for children and families in support of early learning.

At the convening, Turn the Page KC was also recognized for its accomplishments in instigating public awareness around the issue. The Campaign awarded Turn the Page KC for exemplary work in social media, photo, video, print collateral, and media story. “These recognitions reflect our efforts to elevate third grade reading as an economic priority in our city. Business leaders, volunteers, school staff, community leaders, and most importantly, families, are engaged in our efforts to build positive futures for the leaders of tomorrow,” said Jordan Frazier, Turn the Page KC’s Director of Communications.

Over the past five years, Turn the Page KC has regularly convened nonprofits, schools, and service providers to establish and pursue common goals and eliminate barriers to grade level reading.  The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce joined the effort in 2016, naming kindergarten readiness for all Kansas City children as one of its Big Five initiatives.

Reading proficiency by the end of third grade is a critical milestone toward high school graduation and career success, because it marks the transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” National tests show that two-thirds of U.S. fourth graders (four-fifths of students from low-income families) are not reading proficiently. Students who have not mastered reading by that time are more likely to drop out of high school and struggle throughout their lives.

To learn more about the AAC Award criteria and to view profiles for each AAC Award recipient, visit gradelevelreading.net/aacaward.

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Jordan Frazier

Third grade teacher

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