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learn / 2014

Los Angeles Campaign for Grade Level Reading

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Families In Schools

The Los Angeles Campaign for Grade Level Reading equips families with fun and inspiring school readiness and out-of-school learning tools.

Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

The Los Angeles Campaign for Grade Level Reading equips families with fun and inspiring school readiness and out-of-school learning tools.

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South Bay
  • Westside

What is your idea/project in more detail?

The Campaign is a countywide initiative that is focused on improving third-grade reading proficiency, the strongest predictor of high school graduation. With 66% of LA County 3rd graders testing below proficient in English Language Arts on the 2013 CA Standards Test, LA County is experiencing an educational crisis. Students from low income families are disproportionately affected creating a deep achievement gap. GLR will address that gap through initiatives that will empower parents with the skills, resources and confidence to support their children’s learning. Through the Million Word Challenge and Passport to Success, FIS provides access to educational resources for families in high need communities.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

In 2013, the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading invited FIS to serve as the coordinating agency of the LA GLR Campaign, targeting three challenges to students’ reading success that are consequential and amenable to community solutions:

  • The Readiness Gap-too many children from low-income families begin school already behind
  • The Attendance Gap-too many children from low-income families miss too much school; and
  • The Summer Slide-too many children lose ground in summer.

To address these issues, FIS will implement the following core initiatives, with a goal of impacting 150,000 LA County students. With LA 2050 support, FIS will both expand parents’ access to these programs, and deepen parent involvement by providing more site-based literacy workshops. 1) Million Word Challenge: For 13 years, FIS has convened parents, schools, and community leaders to challenge students, Pre-K through 12th grade, to read millions of words outside of the classroom. Early learning centers are prioritized as enthusiastic participants. In 2014, over 100,000 students in 300 schools logged the books they read outside of school under the supervision of their parent or guardian. After seven-weeks, each school selects one student winner to be honored.

FIS offers parent engagement workshops at select MWC schools to inform parents about the MWC and the value of out of school time reading, distributes a bilingual (English/Spanish) Family Reading Guide to parents, and has developed materials for participating schools that include a Launch Kit and MWC Hand Book. Parents receive weekly tips to help support their child’s learning at home. Parents report that as they spend more time reading together, family bonds also strengthen. With LA 2050 support, FIS will deepen its impact in each school with additional literacy support and resources to parents.

2) Passport to Success: This innovative initiative reduces summer learning loss by encouraging families with preschool and elementary students to participate in free and low-cost summer learning activities. Throughout summer, thousands of families visit museums listed in their summer learning kit and collect stamps in a family passport that students submit to their schools for prizes. With LA 2050 support, FIS will be able to provide summer learning kits to more families and foster greater community building among participating families by expanding online engagement.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to LEARN today? In 2050?

The Campaign will help make LA the best place to learn today by showing students and families that the entire community is an educational playground and learning is not just a formal, structured activity limited to a classroom. The initiative is not simply about increasing reading proficiency, it is also about creating the community conditions that support parents’ efforts to be actively engaged in their children’s learning. By engaging parents in accessible, inclusive, non-intimidating and fun out-of-school programs, FIS helps parents create a love of learning in their children that will last throughout their lives.

The Campaign meshes perfectly with LA2050’s learning goal, in particular with the “every high school student will graduate and be college and career ready” and “all parents will be engaged and empowered to direct their children’s learning” components. Programs such as the Campaign will help Los Angeles become a leader and innovator in the educational landscape, rather than a sobering statistic.

Whom will your project benefit?

The Campaign seeks to increase the number of low-income LA County students of color who are reading at grade level by the end of 3rd-grade by impacting 150,000 students. Los Angeles County is facing an educational crisis. As aforementioned there is a significant gap in reading proficiency between low-income students and their more economically advantaged peers. Up until 3rd grade, children are mastering the art of reading. From 3rd grade forward, reading is the key to learning. When students cannot read at grade-level by 3rd grade, it has devastating consequences for the entirety of their education. FIS believes that focusing on communities with the largest concentration of students who scored in the lowest 25% on the California Standards Test (or new Smarter Balance tests), will yield the greatest improvements to overall grade-level reading in LA County. FIS has chosen to serve these students because we believe it is in these communities that our services can make a measurable difference.

Both Campaign initiatives, the Million Word Challenge and Passport to Success, invest in high need communities throughout LA County. MWC and PST increase access to resources and opportunities to engage in family literacy activities otherwise not present. These initiatives serve not only students and their families, but also their teachers and school staff. Participating schools receive parent engagement and literacy tools to help them better serve their families.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

In addition to support from the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading network, FIS is fortunate to have a number of thought partners and key sponsors in this critical endeavor:

Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE): LACOE has provided technical assistance and outreach support for both MWC and PTS and has worked with us for over a decade.

L.A. Compact: Los Angeles leaders from the education, business, government, labor, and non-profit sectors committed to transform education outcomes from cradle to career. The Campaign is aligned with the L.A. Compact and has a representative who serves on the Campaign’s Steering Committee to help produce better outcomes for the youth of L.A. from cradle to career.

First 5 LA: First 5 LA is a thought partner and Campaign Steering Committee member. They lead the work group charged with identifying policy related to early learning and best practices to be employed at demonstration sites.

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD): Both the MWC and PTS serve LAUSD schools for 13 years. LAUSD has two representatives who serve on the Campaign Steering Committee.

Disney Citizenship: Disney Citizenship provides in-kind support by providing volunteers and incentives for student program participants.

Target: Target has provided ongoing funding for both MWC and PTS for over 3 years, enabling these programs to reach hundreds of schools. These programs have been instrumental in carrying out Target’s vision for improved literacy levels in LA County.

Collins Foundation: For the past 2 years, the Collins Foundation has funded components of our literacy work through both MWC and PTS. There are three factors contributing to the success of these partnerships:

Communication: The success of these collaborations relies on the partners’ abilities to communicate amongst each other and communicate with the families within LA County. FIS facilitates that communication through the Steering Committee and other mechanisms.

Reciprocity: Collaboration works when it is mutually beneficial. Our education partners clearly share the goal of improved student success, the business community benefits from a more skilled and career-ready workforce and many of our philanthropic partners are able to support a vital community effort while exposing their brand to a broad audience.

Clear Expectations: Partner roles are clearly defined to maximize efficiency and establish accountability to ensure all goals are met.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Learn” metrics?

  • District-wide graduation rates
  • HS student proficiency in English & Language Arts and Math
  • Academic Performance Index scores

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

As noted previously, 3rd grade reading proficiency is strongly correlated with high school graduation. By offering programs that prepare more 3rd graders to meet grade-level reading standards, the GLR campaign will directly impact each of the metrics selected above. In addition, we believe that the project will have an indirect impact on many of the other metrics (e.g., youth unemployment and underemployment, college matriculation rates, truancy rates). By ensuring that more children are on track with their reading and instilling a love of learning through out of school activities, we are preparing them to be successful students throughout their academic careers, positioning them not only to complete high school but to succeed in college as well.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

Providing quality literacy services is important to FIS as part of our larger mission. FIS will evaluate the Campaign to gauge impact on students’ school readiness and involvement in out of school time learning activities. We will examine program participation rates in both MWC and PTS. For MWC, parents sign off on their children’s reading logs; for PTS, the museums stamp the family passports, independently verifying that the family participated in the activity. In addition, we ask parents to complete an in-depth survey that addresses school readiness elements, and out of school time learning. School readiness areas assessed include time spent reading, level of inquisitiveness, interest in learning and physical activity; the out of school time questions include amount of time spent reading, watching television and engaging in active play. For Passport to Success, parents are asked to identify the site at which their child learned the most and explain why.

FIS will measure success using the following metrics:

  1. Number of families who participate in Campaign initiatives
  2. Percent of families who state their children read more after the program
  3. Percent of families who state their children are more prepared for school after the program
  4. Number of families who attend literacy or summer learning workshops
  5. Number of families who would recommend this program to another family.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

Our project is predicated on two key lessons:
1) Parents play an instrumental role in their child’s education: There is a wide body of research attesting to the fundamental importance of parent engagement in students’ success. All FIS parent engagement programs, including MWC and PTS, are designed to ensure that parents have the wherewithal, tools and resources to help them share knowledge and help their children succeed academically. Because our programs target families in challenged urban communities where adult educational attainment tends to be low, we also have learned that we have to instill confidence in parents in their role as their child’s first teacher and educational advocate, as they often have limited experience with formal education systems and can find them intimidating, particularly when language barriers add another hurdle.
2) Schools excel when parents are engaged: Schools need committed parents to support their efforts in the classroom. When school and parents see themselves as adversaries rather than partners, the students lose out. Through the Campaign, FIS provides technical assistance and materials to make parent engagement easier for schools through the Los Angeles area and to build awareness around the parents’ critical role in building literacy skills both in partnership with their school and at home.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

The L.A. Campaign for Grade Level Reading is partially executed through two existing literacy and summer learning campaigns: the Million Word Challenge and Passport to Success which have been running for 13 and 3 years respectively. Given our strong track record of success in implementing both programs, we are confident that our goal is highly feasible. The creation of the Campaign Steering Committee, with stronger connections to the education and business communities, further expands our capacity to achieve our goal.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

Commitment from Schools: FIS partners with schools to execute the MWC and PTS summer learning campaigns. FIS’s ability to galvanize parents around issues important to their child’s academic success is dependent on access to parents through their children’s schools. Our strategy for ensuring successful implementation is to include LAUSD on our Steering Committee, demonstrating to the individual schools that the program is a district-supported initiative. Incentivizing participation from Families: With multiple children, busy schedules and bills to pay, many parents lack the time and energy to participate in these grade-level reading initiatives. FIS utilizes purchased and donated incentives to entice families to participate such as games, computers, books, amusement park tickets, museum tickets, and more.

What resources does your project need?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Community outreach