Rockford Public Schools says 83% of its third graders are reading below their grade level. The state average sits at 64% of students not reading at a third grade level. In RPS 205 33% are meeting the level, while 1% are exceeding it.
On Tuesday the district along with Alignment Rockford and Transform Rockford help a stakeholder meeting to get local organizations and agencies in the same room to figure out possible solutions to this issue. Superintendent Ehren Jarrett says the third grade reading levels are a major indicator for a students future success.
"We have schools in our district that are among the highest performing in the state and we have a number that are significantly below the state average and our overall results are also below where we’d like them to be," says Jarrett.
According to the Illinois Report Card only one elementary school is performing at an above average level. Thurgood Marshall as 90% of its students ready to move on to the next level. Of the other 23 K through 5 schools, only two top 30% readiness, while ten of those schools are below 10% student readiness.
"This is a community wide challenge, and if we want better outcomes we need the assistance of non-profits community volunteers and all hands on deck to get this work done," says Jarrett.
One of those community stakeholders is the United Way of Rock River Valley.
"Our main focus is going to be in middle school moving forward, but we are in no way going to abandon the current programs we have now," says United Way Community Impact Manager Paul Nolley.
The United Way says it’s decided to turn most of its attention to helping struggling students in the middle school range. The Illinois Report Card shows a shrinking number of students across all RPS 205 middle schools are ready for the next level. in 2017 Eisenhower Middle School finished with the highest amount at 18.3%, then West Middle School with 10.5%, Flinn Middle School at 10.2%, Lincoln Middle School at 7.6%, and Kennedy Middle School with 4.6%.
"I think this collective impact on 3rd grade reading initiative is really going to complement our middle school work," says Nolley. " If we catch students in middle school we can help be successful in high school and moving forward. But if we can catch them even early and provide services and the things students they need at an early age it’ll be less work in middle school."
"I believe all the work community volunteers do in support of our school efforts, it’s all interrelated," says Jarrett. "Getting out students ready to leave our high schools college career ready. That work starts in early childhood."