National recognition could lead to additional funding for the Read to Succeed Buffalo Coalition.
Representatives from the Annie E. Casey Foundation traveled to Buffalo this week to recognize Buffalo as a national Pacesetter Community, calling out the efforts of the Read to Succeed Buffalo Coalition and its 20-plus partners to improve literacy rates and early childhood education levels.
Anne Ryan, Read to Succeed director, said while the Pacesetter award doesn't come with dollars, it does help raise awareness here and across the country among other funders and adds clout to the region's efforts.
"These kids live in high-poverty neighborhoods, go to high-poverty schools and need more exposure," she said. "You need data to inform statistics and progress but you can't do that without funds."
Buffalo has shown it is way ahead of the curve when compared to other communities, said Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and a senior vice president at the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The city was among 30 recognized as Pacesetters from 167 communities across the country and the only one in New York. Those selected as Pacesetters have demonstrated by their 2014 results what the foundation hopes to see happen by 2016.
"They're two years ahead of where we hope other communities will be," Smith said. "There's something special going on here."Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, president and CEO at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, credited the efforts of many partners, who she said create concentric circles of collaboration. That includes nonprofits like the Community Foundation, the John R. Oishei Foundation and the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation as well as corporate partners like M&T Bank and other supporters of the Say Yes Buffalo initiative and the Promise Neighborhood Initiative.
"We've had remarkable success, with 96 percent of students exceeding their literacy goals," she said. "The Campaign for Grade Level Reading is about preparing kids for learning and stopping summer learning loss."
The campaign's goal is to increase school attendance, increase school readiness and decrease summer learning loss. Successes here cited include a decline in chronic absences in Buffalo Public School students by 6 percent during the 2013-2014 school year; and a rate of 96 percent of students exceeding oral-language targets on national school readiness assessments by the end of 2014-2015.