Results Count Heads to Arizona to Help Kids Hit Grade-Level Reading Benchmarks

Posted October 30, 2017, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

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Read­ing at grade lev­el by third grade is a crit­i­cal mile­stone — one that can help pre­dict whether or not kids will thrive in lat­er grades and grad­u­ate from high school. That’s why Read On Ari­zona — a statewide pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship devot­ed to improv­ing ear­ly lan­guage and lit­er­a­cy out­comes — tapped the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion to advance its work help­ing young Ari­zo­nans reach this impor­tant target.

The col­lab­o­ra­tion fol­lowed the Foundation’s Results Count™ approach for lead­er­ship devel­op­ment. Results Count encom­pass­es five core com­pe­ten­cies, two foun­da­tion­al skills and two foun­da­tion­al frame­works ― the 522” for short.

Ear­ly on in the part­ner­ship, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from edu­ca­tion and human ser­vices orga­ni­za­tions in Ari­zona took a deep data dive to iden­ti­fy clear focal areas. They not­ed research indi­cat­ing that eco­nom­i­cal­ly dis­ad­van­taged kids are more like­ly to fare worse in read­ing achievement.

In Ari­zona, this research proved true. In 2015, 40% of all third graders passed AzMER­IT, the state’s offi­cial assess­ment of grade-lev­el read­ing pro­fi­cien­cy. Among eco­nom­i­cal­ly dis­ad­van­taged third graders, the pass rate for this same assess­ment fell to 28%.

Two years lat­er — and two years into Read On Ari­zona adopt­ing the Results Count approach — 44% of all third graders and 32% of all eco­nom­i­cal­ly dis­ad­van­taged third graders passed AzMER­IT. Oth­er­wise put: The pro­por­tion of stu­dents hit­ting the test tar­get increased by 4% for each group, but the 12% achieve­ment gap between the two groups remained unchanged.

If we want to move the nee­dle for every­one, we need to lean in where there are dis­par­i­ties in achieve­ment: kids who are eco­nom­i­cal­ly dis­ad­van­taged, in spe­cial edu­ca­tion or Eng­lish lan­guage learn­ers,” said Ter­ri Clark, who leads Read On Ari­zona and serves as the state’s Lit­er­a­cy Direc­tor. We won’t have a low­er goal or a dif­fer­ent goal for them. Instead, we have to pur­sue strate­gies that sup­port them and work for them, rec­og­niz­ing that it’s a sig­nif­i­cant lift.”

To bridge this achieve­ment gap, Ari­zona schools and more than 500 com­mu­ni­ty part­ners across the state are offer­ing a com­pre­hen­sive menu of strate­gies for reach­ing low­er-income fam­i­lies. Under­ly­ing these strate­gies is research con­duct­ed by Ari­zona State Uni­ver­si­ty in part­ner­ship with Read On Ari­zona. This research indi­cates that pover­ty and atten­dance —and espe­cial­ly chron­ic absen­teeism — are two of the most sig­nif­i­cant fac­tors impact­ing strug­gling readers.

Read On Ari­zona part­ners also began using an inter­ac­tive map­ping tool to break down chron­ic absen­teeism data by neigh­bor­hood and grade lev­el. Once they began shar­ing this infor­ma­tion wide­ly with com­mu­ni­ty part­ners and par­ents, chron­ic absen­teeism fell in every grade up to third grade from 2015 to 2016, the most recent data available.

Read On Ari­zona has also advo­cat­ed for the Ari­zona Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion to include new mea­sure­ments in its account­abil­i­ty report cards, which the state issues as part of its plan to empow­er pub­lic schools to achieve and increase stu­dent suc­cess. These new entries exam­ine how well indi­vid­ual schools are reduc­ing their dis­par­i­ties in achieve­ment, low­er­ing chron­ic absen­teeism and decreas­ing the num­ber of min­i­mal­ly pro­fi­cient students.

Fol­low­ing their Results Count pro­gram expe­ri­ence, Read On Ari­zona and its part­ners have a strong frame­work in place. They will con­tin­ue to inten­tion­al­ly share data, track data to assess progress, and change course as need­ed. In addi­tion, they will shift their com­mit­ments to the results they want instead of to par­tic­u­lar pro­grams that are already in place. Part­ner orga­ni­za­tions are also more com­fort­able hav­ing deep­er and chal­leng­ing con­ver­sa­tions about account­abil­i­ty, and they are shar­ing what works — and what doesn’t — for kids, espe­cial­ly those who are lag­ging behind in read­ing, says Clark.

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