building better readers, one school at a time

June 28, 2013 - Article reads in

Here’s a startling statistic: According to a study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a child who can’t read proficiently by the end of third grade is four times more likely to drop out of high school than a child who can. As part of Target’s commitment to education, we’re working to help more kids become better readers and stay on a path to graduation.

In order to find the best solutions, we listened and learned from educators, experts and practitioners. “We asked school districts to innovate and design their best literacy solution, and then we reviewed and funded proposals that made the most sense,” explains Norah Barrett Cooper, education grant manager, Target Community Relations.

In 2012, Target launched two literacy pilot programs at 12 of our School Library Makeover alumni schools (six schools in Los Angeles and six schools in Washington, D.C.) based on the proposals they submitted. In the D.C. Public School District, we’re providing literacy coaches for one-on-one sessions with students. And at the L.A. Unified School District, we helped the staff form a “literacy academy” to group students by reading proficiency levels across grades.

“We’ll work with these school districts and their programs over a three-year period to see if we can move the needle on K-3 reading,” says Dean Kephart, senior group manager, Target Community Relations. To ensure that the programs are making an impact, we’re partnering with the American Institutes for Research to monitor and assess the students’ progress on a regular basis, evaluate the programs’ success and make improvements as needed.

“We collect by-the-moment data using something called Wireless Generation technology,” says Barrett Cooper. “Through the use of iPads and software we’re providing to the schools, we’ll have results in real time to help teachers understand each student’s level and progress.” The measurement will also help Target track the progress toward our reading-proficiency goal in 2013.

The best news of all? One year into the programs, we’re already seeing positive results. “When we first started, none of the students knew their letters or their sounds,” says Shawn Hacker, a Kindergarten teacher at Western Ave. Elementary in Los Angeles. “So my favorite part of the program is seeing the kids move up and out of my proficiency group.” Adds Principal Bettye Johnson, “When the data comes in, it’s easy to see that this is working.”

This isn’t Target’s first time piloting a literacy program for elementary schools. In 2011, we teamed up with Minnesota non-profits and schools to launch the Path to Reading Excellence in School Sites (PRESS) at six schools in Minneapolis. The program marked the beginning of our work on personalized literacy programs and laid the groundwork to launch the Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. pilots. Check back to the Reading page later this year to see the Minneapolis program in action.

To make sure we’re helping to provide the right tools and resources to help more kids succeed in school, we’ve set goals in the area of education, including a commitment to give $1 billion for education by the end of 2015. Visit Education to learn more about the programs and partners Target supports.


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