Jackson County: A Plan for Action

A network of dedicated partners from schools, nonprofits, higher education, businesses, neighborhoods and the faith community, led by the Jackson County Gradel-Level Reading Campaign, convened to develop a comprehensive, realistic and sustainable plan to improve the reading proficiency of Jackson County students by the end of third grade. The Community Solutions Action Plan (CSAP) for third-grade reading aims to drive progress in three areas:

1 . SCHOOL READINESS

Children from low-income families are less likely to be read to or spoken to regularly or to have access to books, literacy-rich environments, high-quality early care, and prekindergarten programs. Interactions are critical for language development, an important precursor to literacy.

Attendance

* Chang, Hedy; Romero, Mariajose, Present, Engaged and Accounted For: The Critical Importance of Addressing Chronic Absence in the Early Grades, National Center for Children in Poverty: NY; NY, September 2008

2. ATTENDANCE

Among low-income kids in the US, two in 10 missed more than 18 days of school.2 These students can ill-afford to lose time on task, especially in the early years when reading instruction is a central part of the curriculum.

Summer Learning3. The Summer Slide

Children from low-income families lose as much as three months of reading comprehension skills over the summer. By the end of fifth grade, they are often as much as two grade levels behind their peers.

 


The Summer Academy

These students in Maquoketa and Bellevue learned about fish at the Summer Academy from Denny Weiss, fishery technician with the Iowa DNR.

In June, most kids are savoring the freedom of summer. School is a distant memory best avoided by riding bikes, going to the pool, and hitting the ice cream stand.

In 2016, however, nearly 160 Jackson County kids spent part of their summer improving their reading skills through the Jackson County Campaign’s Summer Academy, a program focused on maintaining or increasing the reading proficiency of students over break. Evidence shows that students experience learning loss during the long summer months when they are not engaged in learning activities on a regular basis.

The Summer Academy is a prime example of the Philanthropic Tools project at work—convening partners and resources around a critical issue.


Vision to Learn

Linda Nudd, Jackson County Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Coordinator, stands by student after she received free vision screening

Linda Nudd, Jackson County Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Coordinator, stands by a young student who received free vision screening and glasses

As many as 20,000 students in Iowa lack the glasses they need to see the board, read a book and participate in class. Due to lack of health insurance, difficulty accessing eye care providers and other obstacles, many students who are identified in state-mandated school vision screenings do not receive the follow-up care or glasses they need.

Since 2012, the nonprofit Vision To Learn has addressed this problem by giving children access to vision care through Vision To Learn vision vans, mobile clinics that travel to school sites. Students receive a vision exam from a local optometrist and, if glasses are prescribed, can choose their frames from a wide selection of colors and sizes.

Between January 7 and 14, 2016, a Vision To Learn mobile clinic traveled to three elementary schools in Jackson County. All of the participating schools receive Title I funding and a high percentage of their students come from low-income families.

The pilot project has uncovered just how essential this outreach is:

  • Many of the students identified as needing glasses have extremely high prescriptions, which is often an indication of a long-undetected vision problem.
  • A significant number of students had been prescribed glasses at a young age and were still wearing the same prescription as many as four years later.
  • A large number of students who should be wearing glasses have gone without for as long as two years because their current pair had been broken or lost.