Campaign Director Presents Get Georgia Reading to House Education Committee

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Campaign Director Presents Get Georgia Reading to House Education Committee

Get Georgia Reading Campaign Director Arianne Weldon spoke to the House Education Committee this week. Committee Chairman Brooks Coleman invited her to talk about the Campaign’s strategy for getting every child in Georgia on the path to reading proficiently by third grade by 2020.

“I have a confession to make,” said Weldon to the Committee. “I’m trained as an epidemiologist. I’m not a reading expert. I know that for any disease, there are always determinants and patterns related to risk and protective factors that provide clues for population-level solutions. The same determinants and patterns occur in low-reading proficiency.”

That revelation caught Rep. Randy Nix’s attention. “We can find one or two problems that we want to address,” said Nix about the 66 percent of Georgia’s third graders not reading proficiently. “But Arianne’s thought is, rather than wait until there’s an epidemic, let’s stop the disease before we get there.”

The Campaign has brought together hundreds of public and private partners from across the state to work together to provide integrated and coherent support and education to children. According to Weldon, they haven’t set a goal, but rather an expectation that every child under age 8 living in Georgia will be on the path to reading proficiency by the end of third grade.

A four-part common agenda for change is guiding the Campaign as it seeks to achieve its ambitious expectation:

  1. Language Nutrition: All children receive language rich adult-child interactions, which are as critical for brain development as healthy food is for physical growth.
  2. Access: All children and their families have access to—and supportive services for—healthy development and success in early childhood and early elementary education.
  3. Productive Learning Climate: All educators, families, and policymakers understand and address the impact of learning climate on social-emotional development, school attendance, engagement, and ultimately student success.
  4. Teacher Preparation and Effectiveness: All educators provide high-quality, evidence-informed instruction and effective learning experiences tailored to the needs of each child, regardless of the child’s background.

The language nutrition strategy, which calls for parents to talk with their babies, resonated with Nix, who urged Weldon show a video of a Still Face Experiment, where a mother abruptly stops interacting with her baby. “When she showed this to me, that’s when I caught on to what she was trying to tell me,” he said.

Weldon ended her presentation by sharing lessons the Campaign has learned to inform the Committee’s decisions in solving the complex issues that affect education outcomes across the state:

  • Include language nutrition coaching as a competency among professionals—already reaching most parents and babies.
  • Address access to quality-of-life services for all children through the lens of awareness, affordability, accessibility, availability, accommodation and acceptability.
  • Create safe, supportive, and more productive learning environments.
  • Include language nutrition and learning environment standards in early childhood and k – 12 teacher-preparation programs.
  • Improve the transition between the early years and the early grades through a shared understanding of how children developmentally learn from birth through age 8.

“These are people who have looked at this thing in every possible way, from the time the child is born through third grade,” said Nix. “This is something we need to look at closely. There’s so much we can get from it in terms of what we’re doing.”

Learn more about the Get Georgia Reading Campaign, and about Georgia Family Connection Partnership’s role as Campaign host.

Bill Valladares
GaFCP Communications Director
404-527-7394 (x113)

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