The Dayton/Montgomery County area was among only 15 communities nationwide to receive the All-America City Award last weekend for their efforts to help young children from low-income families achieve early school success.
The awards were presented in Denver by the National Civic League and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a national collaboration of businesses, governments, educators and philanthropic groups aiming to increase reading proficiency as a building block toward success in life.
Ritika Kurup, director of early learning for Learn to Earn Dayton, said Montgomery County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley deserve credit for making the issue a local priority.
“This is a big recognition for our community’s collective efforts around kindergarten readiness and third-grade reading,” Kurup said. “Commissioner Lieberman and Mayor Whaley’s bold leadership is a big reason for this recognition, along with all of our partners’ work.”
The winning communities included San Antonio, Kansas City and Des Moines, as well as other mid-sized and smaller communities.
The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading cites research that “when children read at proficient levels by third grade, they are more likely to complete high school prepared for college, a career, and active citizenship.” But data shows a wide performance gap between low-income children and others, leading to efforts across the nation to address the problem.
Whaley made education a cornerstone of her term as mayor from Day 1, using her inaugural address to launch Dayton’s City of Learners campaign, to improve student performance and build a stronger workforce for the future. She also championed last fall’s income tax increase, which will provide more than $4 million per year to improve high-quality preschool access in Dayton.
Lieberman has been a leader of Montgomery County’s efforts on the same front, helping to build the multiyear pilot program for increased preschool access. The county also has a long-term workforce goal, aiming to have 60 percent of working-age adults possess at least a 2-year college degree or post-secondary credential by 2025.
To win the award, communities had to improve outcomes for low-income children in areas such as school readiness, attendance, summer learning and/or grade-level reading; show civic engagement, cross-sector collaboration and inclusiveness; and create a plan for sustainability and bundling proven strategies.
“This year’s All-America Cities are engaging a diverse cross-section of residents, businesses, nonprofits and other stakeholders in the grade-level reading effort, which will help sustain their achievements over time,” said Doug Linkhart, President of the National Civic League.