Read Fort Worth: From 3rd Grade Readers to Texas Leaders
Two years into its collective impact work, Read Fort Worth is celebrating significant progress toward our shared 100x25 goal. Fort Worth ISD has announced that 35 percent of third-graders were reading on grade level as of the May 2018 STAAR exam, up 7 percentage points since 2015.
Mayor Betsy Price, Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent Scribner, and BNSF Executive Chairman Matt Rose founded Read Fort Worth in 2016 with business, community and philanthropic leaders, including The Miles Foundation, to engage every sector of the community in a collective approach to improving local educational outcomes.
Led by an Executive Council of business, philanthropic and nonprofit leaders, Read Fort Worth works to align programs and partners around the Fort Worth ISD’s ambitious goal: that 100 percent of third-graders will be reading on grade level by 2025, positioned for future success in school and life.
Read Fort Worth has partnered with a diverse collection of organizations to lift up and spread best practices for promoting quality early learning opportunities; healthy development and child wellness; and quality summer learning and after-school programs.
The initiative also is working with FWISD to scale up the number of volunteer reading mentors working one-on-one with young students and is raising funds to ensure that pre-K through second-grade classrooms are well stocked with high-quality, culturally-relevant books to help instill a lifelong love of reading in young children.
WHY 3rd GRADE LITERACY
Research points to the 3rd grade reading metric as a strong proxy for a child’s healthy cognitive, social emotional, and physical development up to that age – and a reliable predictor of future academic and life success. Specifically:
- Students should learn to read up to 3rd grade. By 4th grade, students must read to learn.
- 50% of 4th grade curriculum is incomprehensible to a student who cannot read on a 4th grade level.
- 75% of students are below reading level in 3rd grade will remain below level in high school. 
- Children who aren’t reading at grade level by the end of third grade are 4 times as likely to drop out of high school.
Fort Worth leaders believe that a community-wide, multi-sector approach is needed to accelerate progress toward better outcomes for students – and a brighter future for Fort Worth.
Collaborative Action Networks
Read Fort Worth is a “backbone” organization supporting partners through four key Collective Action Networks (CANs):
1. School Readiness
The School Readiness CAN led by the Early Learning Alliance (ELA) focuses on ensuring all children are ready for kindergarten – socially, emotionally, cognitively, and physically. The ELA’s initiatives seek to 1) elevate early childhood program quality, 2) enhance early learning teacher quality, 3) engage families in early health screenings and elevate parent voice, and 4) share community-wide data to help drive action and accountability.
2. Child Well-Being
The Child Well-Being CAN, led by senior executives from Cook Children’s Health Care System and the JPS Health Network, has focused first on developing a pilot program to reduce abuse and neglect in a neighborhood with high rates of adverse childhood experiences. A separate Child Wellness Task Force is focused on improving physical health outcomes that have a direct impact on school attendance and academic success.
3. Reading Resources
The Reading Resources CAN includes the Classroom Library Campaign Task Force and the Volunteer Reading Task Force. The Classroom Library Campaign has raised more than $130,000 to date toward its first goal of $250,000 needed to purchase 100 durable, high-interest books for Pre-K through second-grade classrooms in schools lacking these essential resources. In May, donors stocked Sunrise-McMillan Elementary School classrooms in southeast Fort Worth with 1,200 new books. Deliveries are scheduled for three additional campuses in August. FWISD leaders co-developed the campaign, creating protocols for books to be purchased, inventory controls and ratings sheets that promote student engagement with literature.
The Volunteer Reading Task Force is working closely with FWISD and partner organizations Kids Hope USA, Read2Win and Reading Partners to scale up the number of reading mentors working one-on-one with young students. During the 2017-18 school year, Read Fort Worth launched teams of reading volunteers with campus leaders and families at George C. Clarke, Manuel Jara, Van Zandt-Guinn elementary schools and Western Hills Primary School. Principals have reported positive results and academic gains among students paired with a reading mentor.
4. Expanded Learning (Summer Learning)
The Expanded Learning CAN has launched a 2018 Summer Scholars Cohort. The group includes eight providers who provide summer learning opportunities for children ages 5 to 9 and who incorporated best practices for literacy instruction into their program format. The goal: that participating children will maintain or grow in literacy skills over the summer and not lose ground, otherwise known as “summer slide.”
The 2018 cohort members are serving an estimated 800 children across 21 sites, generally June 11-July 27. Each organization received Fort Worth ISD-supported training in literacy instruction and assessment. The providers are:
- AB Christian Learning Center
- Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Fort Worth / Girls Inc. of Tarrant County
- Clayton YES
- Fort Worth Library
- Project Transformation
- United Community Centers
- YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth
With support from The Miles Foundation and FWISD, Read Fort Worth hired 10 part-time literacy guides to provide enhanced instructional support at each program site. The guides also are conducting a common assessment of participating children at the beginning of each program and toward the end.
Fort Worth ISD recommended that the IOWA reading assessment be used across the cohort to measure impact of the summer programs. Individual assessment results are confidential, but aggregated results will be shared with cohort members and Read Fort Worth supporters in order to determine overall growth and program bright spots.
READ FORT WORTH: NEXT STEPS
The Miles Foundation serves on the Executive Council of Read Fort Worth, has served on various task forces to co-design the mission, vision, and organizational structure of this effort, and continues to support specific CAN initiatives, including the ongoing work of the ELA and the 2018 Summer Reading Cohort.
We look forward to our continued partnership with the Read Fort Worth leadership team, staff, and all of its valued community partners in our shared work to ensure every child has the opportunity to succeed in school and in life.
 Source: Children’s Reading Foundation
 Source: Yale University Research
 Annie E. Casey Foundation Report