United Way Awards Grant to Children's Defense Fund-MN Freedom Schools®

May 22, 2012

Press Release from Greater Twin Cities United Way

Additional media contact:
Kim Kortas, media relations coordinator
(612) 340-7597

United Way’s Reading by Third Grade multiyear grants help move kids to head of the class
$7.5M bolsters early literacy through tutoring and summer programs to help close achievement gap Twin Cities (May 16, 2012) – Proficient reading skills by third grade is critical to students’ ability to learn in later grades and one of the key indicators of future academic success for young students. With that premise as a foundation – Greater Twin Cities United Way as part of its commitment to early literacy – is investing $7.5M into its multi-year Reading by Third Grade (RB3) funding strategy. The grants, which equal $2.5M annually over a three-year period, will support programs that work in partnership with the Bloomington and Saint Paul School districts to increase literacy for low-income, high-risk pre-kindergarten through third grade students.

According to the Minnesota Department of Education, an estimated 11,000 K-3 students were not reading at grade level in 2011. To help stem the tide of this trend, United Way is granting monies to 14 agencies – including three new programs – to increase the reading proficiency of 8,400 students. Children who don’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school than proficient readers. This, according to experts, affects their future earning potential and impacts the community’s economic and social health.

“Minnesota’s achievement gap is a crisis that we should all be concerned with. United Way believes that by addressing the early literacy disparities in our community through strategic, evidence-based strategies, we’ll be able to have a substantial impact on students,” says United Way Director of Education Meghan Barp. She continues, “The latest round of funding expands programming to serve pre-kindergarten children, to make sure they don’t lag behind once they enter kindergarten. The grant monies will also help provide services during the summer months when the learning gap widens for most low-income students.”

An example of a newly funded program is the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools which works to ensure youth don’t lose academic momentum during the critical summer months. Also partnering with United Way is the nonprofit research firm Child Trends to evaluate the impact of the funded RB3 programs. The Saint Paul Public Schools Foundation is providing staff training and technical support to the programs. 

Barp summed up what the grants mean to the community. “We are confident that by providing capacity building resources to grantees in the form of training and technical assistance, paired with gold standard programs, children will become stronger readers – which is the most essential step in putting them on the road to achieving academic success.” The early literacy funding is effective July 1.

About Greater Twin Cities United Way
Greater Twin Cities United Way addresses our community’s most critical issues through the Agenda for Lasting Change – 10 measurable goals to create pathways out of poverty. We partner with business, government and nonprofit organizations to create lasting solutions and carry out our call-to-action to LIVE UNITED by encouraging everyone to Give. Advocate. Volunteer. Greater Twin Cities United Way is an independent organization serving Anoka, Carver, Chisago, Dakota, Hennepin, Isanti, Ramsey, Scott and western Washington counties. Join the movement. LIVE UNITED. For more information visit www.unitedwaytwincities.org or call (612) 340-7400.