A Community Pulls Together for Early Literacy Program
by Roger White
Reading Equals Succeeding
Here are some startling facts and figures: Every student who does not com- plete high school costs society an estimat- ed $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes, and productivity, according to a study entitled
Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of
Third Grade Matters by the Annie E. Casey
The report goes on to note that there
are 7. 9 million low-income children (birth
through age 8) in the United States and
that if current trends hold true, 83 percent
(or 6. 6 million of these underprivileged
kids) are at increased risk of dropping out
of high school because they cannot read
proficiently by fourth grade. Some worst-case scenario quick math: 6. 6 million
kids multiplied by $260,000 equals $1.7
trillion in lost earnings and productivity.
Of course, that’s assuming all 6. 6 million
amazing strides in reaching a clear goal: to
have all district students reading on grade
level by third grade.
“To overcome any deficit by our students who come from poverty, we needed
to act,” Vroonland said. “We needed to impact our future students and families long
before they start school here in MISD. In
addition, we decided to assign more of our
resources toward the front end of a student’s
education, as we were spending $11 million
on reading remediation for all grade levels.”
Research-based reading and engagement programs were put in place in all
Mesquite ISD elementary campuses, with
each program customized to each school
depending on campus environment, demographics, and faculty makeup.
A key element, however, was community buy-in. And the Mesquite community bought in wholeheartedly. RPT
partners include area banks, restaurants,
medical centers, faith-based organizations,
insurance companies, engineering firms,
the city’s Hispanic forum, paint and body
shops, cosmetologists, and more.
Although 2020 is the target date for
the program to have all third-graders reading on grade level, RPT is already reaping great benefits—with some campuses
noting impressive nine-point increases in
student reading achievement.
Take a closer look at this exceptional
endeavor. The story, entitled “All Together
Now,” begins on page 8.H
Roger White is managing editor of Texas
of these students won’t finish high school,
but you get the unsettling picture.
Bottom line: Reading proficiency
A Call to Action in Mesquite
These numbers are hitting home with
many forward-thinking educators. Mesquite ISD Superintendent David Vroonland
is one. Citing statistics showing that almost
half of the youngsters beginning school in
Mesquite entered the district with no previous educational experience, Vroonland
appealed to the school board and the community that early-age reading proficiency
was an urgent priority for the district.
That was in October 2015. The school
board listened, as did the community.
Now, two and a half years later, Mesquite’s
ReadPlay Talk (RPT) initiative is making