Armed with a new plan about how to make New Haven “the City That Reads,” Mayor Toni Harp is putting a call out to big-buck not-for-profits to help pay the freight.
Harp and leaders of a 36-member blue ribbon panel released the plan — a report on how to bring all students to grade-level reading and make all citizens more literate — at a Wednesday afternoon press conference at City Hall.
It calls for a focused approach to getting preschoolers up to speed on phonics, on boosting the K-12 reading curriculum, on working with families and community groups to boost literacy in town. Harp formed the commission 18 months ago as part of a 10-point plan to improve education. Many of its recommendations involve thinking more strategically about existing reading efforts both inside government and beyond.
In addition to general goals, the report calls for specific moves that cost money: Creating a “cabinet-level” coordinator for literacy efforts; creating a “citywide office of early childhood”; putting more reading specialists in classrooms; creating another “cabinet-level postiion,” to “focus on the needs of EL [English Language] and bilingual educator”; spending more on bilingual education.
Meanwhile, the mayor this week learned the state is taking back $1.9 million it had promised for the rest of this fiscal year; another $1.3 million it had promised to the schools; and it planning to send tens of millions of dollars less than it had promised for the next fiscal year. So she declared a government spending freeze.
So where will money come from to staff those elements of the new plan?
Harp said she hopes to convince not-for-profit leaders — the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, Yale, and Yale-New Haven Hospital — to put up the money.
“I think we can get people to invest. We can show the rest of the state and the rest of America how we can get all” children up to reading level and prepared for new-economy jobs, Harp said.
According to the report, public school children in New Haven performed 2.2 points above the state average of 75 on the District Performance Index (DPI) measure (on a 1-100 scale) in English language arts. African-American students performed 14.2 points below the average, Latino students, 11.8; “English Learners,” 17.9 points; and students with disabilities, 26.2. Asian-American students outperformed the state average by 3.2 points.
The report called for “establish[ing] a culture supporting meaningful change” on literacy, with more data collection and analysis, more structure for programs for kids under 5 years old, a revised pre-K reading curriculum, more professional development in reading instruction for all teachers, plans to work more with families to help adults as well as children read more, “grade-appropriate reading specialists” available to all classroom teachers each week, and more “dual language” programs (like those at Columbus Family Academy and Clinton Avenue School).
Click here to read a previous story about the work of literacy coaches in city schools.