In a rare demonstration of unity, Dalton and Whitfield County government and education leaders on Thursday endorsed community literacy and pledged resources and support to help all area students read proficiently by third grade.
Mayor David Pennington and members of the Dalton City Council, Chairman Mike Babb and the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners, Chairman Danny Crutchfield and the members of the Dalton Board of Education, and Chairman Louis Fordham and members of the Whitfield County Board of Education agreed to sign a resolution “(to) provide resources and support to our city and county schools and families with the goal of improving early reading proficiency and helping all our children achieve grade-level reading status by the end of third grade.”
“There is clear and compelling evidence that children who are not proficient readers in third grade are already on the dropout track,” said Mayor Pennington in reading the Resolution to be adopted by each of the governing bodies at upcoming meetings. “Low achievement in reading has significant long-term consequences in terms of individual earning potential, global competitiveness, and general productivity.”
“If you read the paper, you will quickly learn that the state’s financial decisions are shifting the cost of education to local communities,” said Chairman Babb. “Many communities are going to see students who suffer because they are not willing to make the appropriate investments in education. We are not going to be one of those communities. We are standing here today, united, to say that our community is going to go beyond the norm to do something different and do something right.”
The commitment to early literacy was identified as a high leverage activity with considerable community benefit following more than two years of work by Archway Partnership work groups, said Rick Hooper, Chairman of the Archway Partnership Executive Committee.
“We are encouraging investment in education to ensure that our students are the best and most prepared in the state,” said Hooper. “As a community, we are committed to getting our children on grade level at an early age. Today we are here to celebrate and support our local school systems’ decisions to prioritize our children and invest in their education in tough financial times.”
Danny Crutchfield, chair of the Dalton Board of Education, pledged the city school system’s re-commitment to Literacy Collaborative, a comprehensive instructional framework to improve the reading and writing achievement of students from pre-K through eighth grade.
City school leaders implemented the innovative Literacy Collaborative initially, Crutchfield said, because they wanted “a literacy program that would transform the way we taught reading, writing, language arts, comprehension, and digital literacy so that students in Dalton Public Schools would not only become strong readers, writers, and communicators, but so they would develop a lifelong love for reading and learning.”
The program has been reduced in scope due to budget cuts in recent years, but Crutchfield reported Thursday that it will be restored for the 2012-2013 school year.
Whitfield County Schools has adopted the Literacy Collaborative framework as well, hoping to replicate successes achieved in the city school system. “We believe this is the best chance to get our kids on track and reduce remediation on the back end,” said County School Board Chairman Louis Fordham. “Our two school boards feel it is our primary job to ensure our 20,500 students are prepared for life beyond high school. If we fail to get every student on grade level, if we fail to teach every student to read proficiently, if we fail to equip them with today’s skills, we fail our students.”
“Investment in public education as a unified community is critical,” said Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce Chairman Joe Yarbrough. “We hope that this will be the first of many announcements about how we are working together to make smart decisions for our students.”
Pennington announced a community celebration of literacy is coming Thursday, July 19, 4-6 p.m., at the Gaston Community Center. All are invited to celebrate and learn how to become more engaged in the community literacy initiative.