July 3, 2012

Pittsfield Named All-America City Based on Plan to Improve Third Grade Reading

PITTSFIELD IS NAMED A 2012 ALL-AMERICA CITY BASED ON PLAN TO IMPROVE THIRD GRADE READING -- City becomes charter member of national network dedicated to increasing the number of low-income students reading on grade level

DENVER–Pittsfield was named an All-America City by the National Civic League today based on its ambitious plan to ensure that more children are reading at grade level by the end of third grade.
Chosen from a field of more than 100 entries, Pittsfield's "Promise Plan" was submitted by a community coalition that included Berkshire United Way, the city's public schools and a number of local decision-makers. The community was one of 14 awardees selected from 32 finalists.

"By competing in this contest, we gain a broader perspective and can see the successes of other cities in addressing fundamental community challenges," said Kristine Hazzard, President and CEO of Berkshire United Way. "We can apply some of those same strategies here and accelerate our work."

Beyond the award contest, Pittsfield's plan makes the city a charter member in the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Communities Network, a national movement of local and state leaders, nonprofits, and foundations putting a stake in the ground on third-grade reading. That milestone marks the point when children shift from learning to read and begin reading to learn. Students who haven't mastered reading by then are more likely to get stuck in a cycle of academic failure, drop out of school, and struggle throughout their lives.
The awards are given each year by the National Civic League for outstanding civic accomplishments. Ordinarily, applicants choose their own local projects to showcase, but this year NCL is teaming with the Campaign to encourage community-based partnerships to improve reading proficiency among young students.

"This partnership with the Campaign has been an amazing experience for our All-America City Awards," said Gloria Rubio-Cortes, president of the National Civic League which has sponsored the award for more than 60 years. "We were overwhelmed by the quality, passion and thoughtfulness of all the action plans submitted by more than 100 cities, towns and regions. There is a real and deep commitment to ensuring that our children are prepared to succeed."

The 124 cities and counties in the network, representing 350 school districts with 8 million students, are adopting a collective impact strategy, engaging the full community around the goal of supporting low-income children from birth through third grade.

Pittsfield's overarching strategy to reach their grade-level reading goals is to identify and connect with existing programs and work to provide language?rich, rigorous and engaging literacy programs. Pittsfield also seeks to identify and recruit a network of trusted advisers and develop new and innovative programs. Through these efforts, the city aims to increase the percentage of third graders reading at grade level from 60 percent to 90 percent.

As a charter member of the Grade-Level Reading Community Network, Pittsfield will have access to a Promising Practices Clearinghouse, an online help desk, peer-learning opportunities, meetings with national experts and policymakers and a foundation registry designed to expand and replicate successful programs.

"I am pleased that Pittsfield is an All-America City, but the real prize here lies in building a strong, committed coalition focused on achieving better outcomes for all of our children," said Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a collaborative effort by dozens of funders across the nation to: close the gap in reading achievement that separates many low-income students from their peers; raise the bar for reading proficiency so that all students are assessed by world-class standards; and ensure that all children, including and especially children from low-income families, have an equitable opportunity to meet those higher standards. For more information, visit or contact Phyllis Jordan at or 301-656-0348.

The National Civic League is a 117-year-old nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that strengthens democracy by increasing the capacity of groups and individuals to participate in and build healthy and prosperous communities. In addition to giving the All-America City Awards, NCL publishes the Model City Charter and the National Civic Review.;

All-America City Award sponsors include: The Piton Foundation; Southwest Airlines-Official Airline of the All-America City Awards; PCL Construction; Mile High United Way; Greenberg Traurig ; US Bank; El Pomar Foundation; JP Morgan Chase; City of Lakewood; City of Aurora; Comcast; FirstBank; Ready Foods; Rose Community Foundation; Western Union; and Denver Health.