Read On Arizona recently hosted education leaders and state officials from Florida and Arizona as part of an ongoing learning exchange on state-level strategies to improve early literacy and school readiness.
The two states share similar circumstances and challenges. Both have statewide reading initiatives and comprehensive early literacy policies. And reading outcomes in Florida and Arizona have improved steadily over a long period of time.
In partnership with the Florida Alliance of Children’s Councils & Trusts (FACCT), Read On Arizona convened the learning exchange to strengthen literacy policies and identify scalable solutions and how they can be effectively implemented.
“We have to keep exploring what works,” said Terri Clark, who leads Read On Arizona, “and lean in on those strategies, bring them to scale, and execute them well. Collaborating with other states like Florida can only strengthen our work at every level, from policy to practice.”
Participants in the recent, two-day session, held at the Helios Education Campus, included partners from state agencies, communities, school districts, nonprofits, philanthropy, and state legislators.
“I think everyone found it very informative and also very uplifting,” Clark added. “We’re committed to this work. As more than one of our participants put it, we all share a ‘moral imperative’ to help our young children learn to read.”
Thanks to our partners from FL & here in AZ for two productive days of conversation about improving early literacy. We know what works. Policy, implementation & collaboration are keys to getting better outcomes faster. We need everyone on the same page. @HeliosEdFnd @FloridaGLR pic.twitter.com/yORLJeNig5
— Read On Arizona (@ReadOnArizona) August 4, 2023
The importance of data was a central topic. A demonstration of MapLIT, Read On Arizona’s interactive mapping tool, was followed by examples of how partners and communities use the tool to identify strategies and funding opportunities to address key drivers of third grade reading outcomes, like school readiness and chronic absence.
“MapLIT is a cornerstone of the work that we do,” said Tim Valencia, youth and education director for the City of Phoenix who also co-leads Read On Phoenix, one of 26 local Read On Communities that apply the same strategic approaches of the statewide Read On Arizona collaboration. “We use it on a daily basis to empower our councilmembers and partners to make decisions and leverage resources for early childhood education.”
From Policy to Practice
The convening also delved into policies to improve PK-3 reading instruction and increase access to high-quality early learning opportunities for underserved or economically-disadvantaged young children from birth to age 5.
Participants from both states emphasized the importance of building the capacity of educators to teach reading effectively, as well as implementing a comprehensive system of assessments to inform instructional decisions from state to student.
“We can only make good policy decisions when we are comparing apples to apples,” said Florida State Senator Erin Grall.
The state learning exchange, which began in 2022, is funded by a grant from the Helios Education Foundation as part of its five-year impact plan to bring “vision, rigor, and commitment to tackling educational inequities in Arizona and Florida.”
Next year, as part of the ongoing learning exchange, Read On Arizona will convene thought leaders from several additional states to collaborate and problem solve on early literacy.
Thank you to the esteemed education leaders & state officials who joined us for @ReadOnArizona & @FloridaGLR‘s State Learning Exchange! Together, we’re committed to improving school readiness & early literacy outcomes in Arizona & Florida. pic.twitter.com/KBjLvjsI92
— Helios Education Foundation (@HeliosEdFnd) August 4, 2023