This June, Stand for Children celebrates our 20th anniversary as an organization. On June 1, 1996 over 300,000 people took to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC for “Stand for Children Day.” On that day Rosa Parks famously said, “if I can sit down for justice, you can stand up for children.” This rally launched Stand for Children, an organization focused on improving education for all children. Today there are Stand for Children affiliates working in 11 states across the country.
Stand for Children Colorado was founded in 2009. Reflecting on the work of this organization over the last 7 years in Colorado, we have seen many notable accomplishments in Denver Public Schools and at the state level.
I am particularly proud of our efforts to improve early literacy for Colorado students. Our team recognizes how critical it is for students to be able to read proficiently by the end of third grade. We also know that there are far too many students in Colorado not reaching this critical milestone.
In 2012, Stand for Children worked with a coalition of like-minded partners and leaders in the legislature to help develop and pass the Reading to Ensure Academic Development (READ) Act. The READ Act, a seminal piece of legislation, focuses on K-3 literacy development, literacy assessments, and individual improvement plans for students reading below grade level. Colorado recently received high marks for the READ Act in a recent report published by national think-tank, New America.
Today our team remains passionately committed to ensuring every Colorado student is proficiently reading by the time they enter 4th grade. Despite committed educators and our strong policy, 61% of Colorado students in fourth grade scored below proficient on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading assessment. This is unacceptable.
We have now turned our focus on ways to improve implementation of The READ Act. The Stand Colorado team recently studied what could be done to improve early literacy in our state and better support educators who are responsible for teaching reading. We have found that there are some changes that can be implemented right now. Our report, Improving Early Literacy in Colorado: Realizing the Promise of the READ Act outlines specific recommendations for the Colorado Department of Education and the State Board of Education on how to improve early literacy in our state and support educators teaching young readers. We are now focused on advancing these recommendations so that we can realize the promise of the READ Act.
I’m proud of what Stand for Children has accomplished in the last 20 years. Our team in Colorado is laser focused on ways to ensure that every Colorado student finishes high school ready for college or career. We heed Ms. Parks’ words every day and will continue to stand up for a great education for every child in Colorado.