The Sarasota County School District has upped their STEM efforts in the past few years, including through the Gulf Coast Community Foundation-sponsored STEMsmart Initiative, as institutions nationally look to make those programs more accessible to students to make the country more competitive in the global economy.
There are currently 129 HIPPY programs operating in the United States; including 14 in Florida, from Miami-Dade County to the Panhandle. Each program is funded separately, but most use a combination of local, state and federal money.
Luckily for Hendry and her granddaughter, the Children's Board of Hillsborough County has been consistently supporting the program for years. The average cost in the county is between $2,000 to $3,000 per child. That includes the salary of the trainer, all school materials, and in Hillsborough, wraparound mental health services.
Both Manatee and Sarasota improved incrementally in the number of third-graders reading proficiently this year, with 3 percent gains over last year; 51 percent of Manatee’s third-graders are on grade level, and 71 percent in Sarasota.
The campaign has targeted school attendance, school readiness, summer learning, child health and parental support as being vital to improving child literacy rates. This has led to several initiatives in the region in the past year, including Reach Out and Read, which provides books for pediatricians to “prescribe” to their young patients, a dental sealant program for children in Sarasota, attendance promotion initiatives, summer reading rooms and partnerships with community organizations focusing on child health and literacy.
Eighty percent of low-income students across the entirety of America can’t read proficiently at their grade level.
For many involved in the Suncoast Campaign for Grade Level Reading in Manatee and Sarasota counties, that statistic, announced by Yolie Flores, senior fellow with the National Campaign for Grade Level Reading Thursday, is troubling and scary.
Polk Education Foundation’s AmeriCorps Polk Reads program recently received $8,580 in funding for their Building Better Readers program through an Impact Polk grant from the GiveWell Community Foundation. AmeriCorps Polk Reads is a tutoring and mentoring program designed to serve over 400 low performing Kindergarten thru third grade students during the school year.
With the Children’s Services Advisory Board’s budget asks, Donahue said they plan on implementing three programs with the aim of keeping children from going into the foster care system.
One of the programs was called Early Childhood Court, which Donahue said has been partially funded by the Manatee Community Foundation to help 70 families and speed up the permanency process.
Debra Jacobs, the president and CEO of the Patterson Foundation, Beth Duda, the director of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-level Reading, and United Way of Manatee chief operating officer Bronwyn Beightol each shared ways their entities were helping students and encouraged business leaders to get involved.
Reading proficiency by third grade is one of the best predictors of a child’s long-term academic, social and economic success. Eighty percent of low-income children fail to read proficiently in fourth grade, compared with 49 percent of more affluent students, the U.S. Department of Education has reported.
To tackle that problem, the Suncoast Campaign has drawn together both counties’ school districts and library systems, the Sarasota Housing Authority, the Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County, the Patterson Foundation, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and numerous other government agencies and civic organizations.
This year, the awards focused on communities engaged in the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, which is being implemented in more than 300 regions and more than 40 states across the country. That campaign works to increase the number of students who are reading at or above grade-level by the end of third grade.
The National Civic League cited the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s ability to “innovatively engage families” in the effort to increase reading proficiency.
The professional development opportunity, funded through the Indian River Community Foundation, also includes a cohort component. Twenty early educators from diverse backgrounds come together every month to discuss new ways to implement the Reggio Emilia philosophy.