High stakes education is about to get even higher in the State of Michigan. In 2017, Michigan joined 38 other states with its new Michigan Third Grade Reading law. In 2020, the law’s retention mandate goes into effect. Under the new law, students who are not reading at grade level by the end of third grade will be held back from entering fourth grade.
By some predictions, this new law could impact more than half of ALL Michigan students! No school district is immune from the serious consequences of this legislation, but for school districts in traditionally under-resourced communities, the potential implications of the new law are particularly dire.
In the Grand Rapids Public Schools, our district is already making gains in many areas under Superintendent Weatherall Neal’s Transformation Plan. Reading and literacy is no different. GRPS is partnering with the Midwest Education Trust, literacy coaches and other education partners to support students AND teachers. But it is going to be heavy lift. To ensure that all of our children can read at grade level by third grade, there needs to be real change in how we support teachers, students and families and in how we ensure access to the right literacy tools and resources for our classrooms.
Our schools and our teachers cannot do it alone. Philanthropy plays a key role in providing the needed financial and in-kind resources to support literacy success. Literacy is the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation’s first and dearest impact area. We are honored to partner with the Grand Rapids Public Schools in meeting this challenge, and even more so in ensuring that our community’s children thrive!
That is why the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation has launched its Literacy Fund. GRPS is investing in new initiatives and exploring how to replicate successful opportunities. But it needs flexibility and access to resources to pivot and to respond to needs. Our schools don’t have years to find solutions. More importantly, our children don’t have years.
That is where you and the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation comes in. In September 2017, the Foundation launched and has already raised more than $25,000 for this Literacy Fund. This fund raises dollars that GRPS can utilize to pilot or expand literacy programs with potential. This fund also allows donors the opportunity to be critical partners in this work, to understand the challenges and the opportunities and to provide the funding as a catalyst for change.