Last school year (2008-09), 40 percent of children entering Kindergarten in Buffalo Public Schools (BPS) lagged behind their peers in Kindergarten readiness. Read to Succeed Buffalo (RTSB) announced today that they are beginning to see a change.

The objective is to begin strong early learning skills, regardless of home financial circumstances, in order to train children as students, thus creating a better chance of keeping them in school until graduation.

Children in Bethel Head Start:

Based on data collected by an independent evaluator for approximately one hundred 4-year-old children in 5 Bethel Head Start centers participating in Early Reading First (ERF) in 2008-09, RTSB found the following:

· An increase from 67% proficiency in oral language at the start of the school year, to 87% at the end of the year.

· An increase from 20% proficiency in alphabet letter identification at the start of the school year, to 81% at the end of the year.

· An increase from 0% proficiency in concepts of print and letter sounds at the start of the school year, to 85% at the end of the year.

According to Read to Succeed Buffalo Executive Director Helene Kramer, "We are very pleased with the strong results that children in the program have demonstrated. While the Early Reading First grant allowed us to sow seeds for success, the time is now to find ways to expand these programs for more children throughout Buffalo."

Rev. Richard Stenhouse, executive director of Bethel Head Start, said, "We're very encouraged by the results of the Early Reading First program. Our teachers and instructional staff have improved their teaching of language and literacy and it shows in how the children are performing."

Buffalo Public Schools, a partner in the Early Reading First initiative, tracked first-year Early Reading First children from Bethel Head Start to Kindergarten. Based on a slightly more stringent BPS measure for kindergarten readiness, the data is as follows:

· 73% of the children who entered BPS Kindergartens last September (2008) were proficient at the beginning of the school year. By the end of the school year, 85% of them were proficient.

Dr. James Williams, Superintendent of Buffalo Public Schools, commented, "These results prove two things: First, when we get children prepared for Kindergarten, we can keep them on target and help them grow their skills. Second, given the proper resources and educational interventions, children living in poverty can learn just like everyone else."

ERF is a U.S. Department of Education grant-funded initiative implemented through a partnership between Read to Succeed Buffalo, Buffalo Public Schools, Bethel Head Start and the Child Care Resource Network.