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[February 28, 2013]

Arizona Receives National Attention as a "Pacesetter" for Its Statewide Commitment in Addressing Early Literacy from the National Campaign for Grade Level Reading

PHOENIX --(Business Wire)--

Arizona Community Foundation, Arizona Department of Education, Arizona Head Start State Collaboration Office, First Things First, Helios Education Foundation, Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, and other partners gathered at the Children's Museum of Phoenix recently to celebrate Arizona being recognized as a "Pacesetter" by the National Campaign for Grade Level Reading. The event recognized "Read On Arizona," the new statewide, innovative public/private collaborative of agencies, foundations, and community stakeholders working to improve language and literacy outcomes for Arizona's children from birth to age 8 (infant to third-grade).

Read On Arizona builds on the momentum that was created around regional efforts in response to the National Campaign for Grade Level Reading, and is broader in scope to address the significant challenges statewide that Arizona faces in reaching its grade level reading goals.

Ralph Smith, Managing Director of the National Campaign For Grade Level Reading, was on hand to present the Pacesetter award and said, "Arizona's commitment to third-grade reading as a statewide priority is off to a promising start. Communities across the state have joined forces to help each other succeed. And the exemplary leadership of Arizona's foundations has inspired us all."

The Read On Arizona collaborative believes that when Arizona reads, Arizona thrives, and it is helping communities intentionally align literacy services to develop an early literacy system that delivers the right intervention, at the right time, for the right child. The collaborative effort has the bold but achievable vision that all of Arizona's students will be reading at or above grade level by the end of third-grade by 2023, so that every child is on track for college and/or career success. As part of Arizona's Statewide Literacy Plan, the first Arizona Literacy Director will function as a critical resource to support Read On Arizona in its implementation of a 10-year strategic literacy action plan.

The literacy celebration speakers included: City of Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton; President and CEO of Helios Education Foundation, Paul Luna; Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, John Huppenthal; Managing Director of the National Campaign for Grade Level Reading, Ralph Smith; and State Literacy Director, Terri Clark.

"Early emergent literacy is essential for setting a student on a path for academic and career success," said Paul Luna, president and CEO of Helios Education Foundation. "Read On Arizona gives communities the resources they need to prepare children for kindergarten and get them reading proficiently by the end of third grade. Helios is pleased to support this collaborative because this work ultimately lays the foundation for student academic success for years to come."

Arizona statute (ARS 15-701), known as Move on When Reading, takes effect for the 2013-2014 school year. Students scoring "far below" on Arizona's AIMS reading assessment test may be retained in the third-grade until they meet the rigorous reading specifications set forth in the statute. Reading by third-grade marks a milestone when children shift from learning to read and begin to read to learn.

"The implementation of more rigorous academic standards puts us on track to greatly increase the literacy skills of Arizona's children," said John Huppenthal, Arizona Superintendent of Education. "I join our ther partners when I say we're excited by the path we see unfolding and believe Read On Arizona will direct us toward the bold but achievable goal of reading success for all of Arizona's young children."


Terri Clark, the new Arizona Literacy Director, said, "Read On Arizona embodies the collaborative approach that is needed to create real and sustainable solutions to the early literacy crisis we're facing in Arizona with only 26 percent of Arizona 4th graders being proficient in reading at grade level. Now is the time for action."

Numerous community leaders, city and business officials, educators, and parents who are committed to working toward improving the number of children attaining reading success also attended the celebration, including: City of Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord; Office of the Governor's Director of Education Innovation, Rebecca Gau; State Board of Education Deputy Director, Christine Thompson; Arizona State University Mary Lou Fulton's Teacher College Dean, Mari Koerner; Maricopa Community College System Chancellor, Rufus Glasper; Yuma County Superintendent and State Board of Education President, Tom Tyree; Valley of the Sun United Way CEO, Merl Waschler, First Things First CEO, Rhian Alvin; Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust President and CEO, Judy Jolley Mohraz; Arizona Community Foundation Chief Strategy Officer, Jim Pitofsky; and corporate representatives from Target (News - Alert) and KPMG among many other community stakeholders.

The initial development of a collective plan to address the important issue of children reading proficiently at the end of 3rd grade was spearheaded by three funding partners-Helios Education Foundation, Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, and the Arizona Community Foundation-who reached out to partner with four United Ways: Valley of the Sun United Way, United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, United Way of Northern Arizona, and the United Way of Yuma County. The State Department of Education, First Things First and Arizona Head Start State Collaboration Office also played key roles in committing statewide efforts to "put a stake in the ground" around third-grade reading.

About Arizona Community Foundation

Established in 1978, the Arizona Community Foundation is a statewide family of charitable funds supported by thousands of Arizonans. With four regional offices serving communities across Arizona, ACF is among the top 25 community foundations in the nation with more than $500 million in trust and endowment assets, and is confirmed in compliance with the National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations. Last year, ACF and its affiliates awarded more than $36 million in grants and scholarship funding to some 2,500 nonprofit organizations, schools and government agencies. For more information visit www.azfoundation.org.

About Arizona Department of Education

Arizona Department of Education serves Arizona's education community, ensuring every child has access to an excellent education. For more information visit www.azed.gov.

About Arizona Head Start State Collaboration Office

The Arizona Department of Education-Early Childhood Unit administers the Head Start State Collaboration grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish linkages among Head Start, childcare, social welfare, health and state funded preschool programs and K-12 Education. For more information visit www.azed.gov/early-childhood/head-start.

About First Things First

First Things First is a voter-created, statewide organization that funds early education and health programs to help kids be successful once they enter kindergarten. Decisions about how those funds are spent are made by local councils staffed by community volunteers. To learn more, visit www.azftf.gov.

About Helios Education Foundation

Helios Education Foundation is focused on creating a high-expectations, college-going culture in Arizona and Florida by investing in initiatives that create opportunities for postsecondary education success. The Foundation focuses its investments across the education continuum in three key impact areas: Early Childhood Education, the Transition Years and Postsecondary Scholarships.

As an engaged foundation, embedded in communities across both states, the Foundation is contributing its leadership, expertise and financial resources to better prepare students to succeed academically and to compete in a globally-competitive economy. Since 2006, Helios has invested over $125 million in education-related programs and initiatives in Arizona and Florida. For more information visit www.helios.org.

About Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust

A private independent foundation, Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust honors Virginia Galvin Piper's philanthropic commitment to changing lives and strengthening community in Maricopa County (Arizona). By investing in nonprofits and encouraging strategic planning for the future, Piper Trust strives to make Maricopa County a stronger, more nurturing, vibrant community. Since it began awarding grants in 2000, Piper Trust has invested more than $300 million in local nonprofits and programs. The Trust had total grants paid of $21.9 million in fiscal year 2012. Piper Trust grant making areas are healthcare and medical research, children, older adults, arts and culture, education, and religious organizations. For more information visit www.pipertrust.org.


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