July 21, 2022 – Earlier today, the National Civic League and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading announced the winners of the 2022 All-America City Awards (AAC). These ten communities improved prospects for early school success and equitable learning recovery for their most vulnerable children and families using housing as a platform. Winning communities exhibited a commitment to cross-sector collaboration; meaningful partnerships with public housing agencies and affordable-housing organizations; data-based solutions; and equity, including racial equity.
In March, 20 communities were designated finalists for the award based on robust applications around the year’s theme. After months of preparation, the AAC finalists each provided a virtual community presentation to the awards jury panel from July 19-21, which then selected the ten winners.
Community presentations included pre-recorded videos, virtual skits, and heartfelt stories to bring their projects and communities to life. Community efforts highlighted by the finalists emphasized work around one or more of the following areas of focus:
- Digital equity
- Relational supports
- Afterschool, summer and out-of-school learning opportunities
- Transforming non-school places and spaces into learning-rich environments
- Promoting school readiness, regular attendance and summer learning
- Parents succeeding as essential partners in assuring the healthy development and early school success of their children
- Parents succeeding in their own journey toward sustainable self-sufficiency.
Today, CGLR also announced GLR communities recognized as 2021-2022 Pacesetters
for their work to advance 'must-do' priorities for early school success; communities receiving both designations are referenced below.
The winning communities are:
Barberton, Ohio — When data showed that less than one-quarter of Barberton children were ready for kindergarten, the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA) and the Barberton City Schools partnered to help address this key community problem. Through programs that increase parent engagement, detect developmental delays and health issues, and provide books and supplies to families, Barberton’s youngest learners are increasingly prepared for success.
Los Angeles, CA — In 2015, data showed that children served by the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) were failing the third grade reading exam at an alarming rate. HACLA quickly increased access to books and literacy support and embarked on a major overhaul of after-school and summer academic programming. At the onset of the pandemic, HACLA established Academic Learning Pods for virtual learning and worked with partners to install internet at public housing sites, hire digital ambassadors to improve digital literacy, and help children navigate schoolwork.
Louisville, KY — In 2015, the Louisville Metro Housing Authority received a Choice Neighborhoods planning grant for the Beecher Terrace public housing development and the Russell neighborhood. As part of this grant, the People Plan strives to create equitable opportunities where all Russell neighborhood/Beecher Terrace children and families are stable and thriving; where all voices are acknowledged and promoted; and all systems are positively aligned and equally contributing. Multiple AAC areas of focus align with this work, including digital equity, relational supports, transforming non-school places, and parents succeeding in their own journey toward sustainable self-sufficiency.
New Haven, CT — The residents at Elm City Communities (ECC)/Housing Authority of New Haven have faced decades of white flight, disinvestment, and a fractured and transitional economy. These inequities were the genesis of the ECC Believes Initiative, which provides educational supports to ECC students and families through the development of diverse and inclusive community collaborations. ECC Believes' partners share the common goal of bringing expanded services to residents and supporting learning and academic opportunities for students and their families. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ECC Believes adopted a more holistic wraparound approach to fill health, education, and connectivity gaps left by schools and other partner organizations that had to shut down or reduce operations.
Palacios, TX — Palacios is known for its rich history, incredibly diverse population, and agricultural resources – and a commitment to addressing the cycle of childhood poverty and low educational achievement in partnership with the Palacios Housing Authority and other key local stakeholders. The Palacios Hub brought together various community organizations and resources to address these issues, delivering countless resources to children who otherwise would not have access to the food, school supplies, clothing, emotional support, individualized attention and more that they need to be successful in school. Complementing these collaborations is the relationship with the school district, which has provided technological resources necessary to track children’s development and educational progress.
Phoenix, AZ — When the pandemic exposed a “COVID-19 learning slide” in the literacy skills of thousands of children in Phoenix, Read On Phoenix and the City of Phoenix doubled down on efforts to increase school readiness, literacy initiatives and early childhood activities. These efforts saw partners collaborating to distribute tablets/laptops, increase internet access and digital literacy, and create learning-rich environments in the city’s housing facilities.
Portland, ME —The pandemic highlighted many long-standing disparities in educational opportunities and outcomes for low-income families and children in Portland. Portland ConnectED exists to combat this challenge. This cross-sector, cradle-to-career partnership includes over 70 organizations from a variety of sectors working in close partnership with Portland Public Schools and the Portland Housing Authority. Through these relationships, Portland ConnectED seeks to bring opportunity to families in public housing and address the barriers that may get in the way of children succeeding in school. These efforts fall into three principal areas: revitalized use of study centers; afterschool, summer and out-of-school learning opportunities; and partnerships with parents and caretakers.
Sacramento, CA — The Promise Zone (PZ) Literacy Initiative, under the umbrella of the Sacramento Redevelopment and Housing Agency, takes a multifaceted approach to improving literacy rates in Sacramento. Central to this approach is book provision to children living in public and affordable housing, offering children the chance to complement reading comprehension and communication skills developed in school with opportunities to practice and continue learning at home. Other key efforts include partnering with schools to bring evidence-based reading instruction into K-2 classrooms through curriculum, teacher training, and after-school interventions; and supporting summer reading programs to increase participation and impact.
San Antonio, TX — With one in four children living in poverty, the City of San Antonio has sought to foster a citywide movement to improve digital equity, relational supports, school readiness and parental self-sufficiency. To achieve these goals, the city is addressing the challenges faced by impoverished children and families through the initiative Ready to Work, the Strategic Housing Implementation Plan that targets households at risk of housing instability, and a Community Digital Equity Plan and Roadmap. Through a comprehensive two-generation approach, San Antonians aim to both reduce poverty and restore equity in opportunity.
San Antonio is also being recognized as a CGLR 2021-2022 Pacesetter for its work around collective planning around early childhood success, including for unhoused students, and for addressing the digital divide during COVID-19.
Suncoast Region, FL — Encompassing Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties, the Suncoast Region is marked by incredible diversity with communities ranging in economic status. Asset-limited families continue to struggle to ensure that their children will retain reading skills and read at grade level throughout elementary school. Using a two-generation lens, the Suncoast Region Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR) invests in education and certification for parents, caregivers and children, and aligns mental health support with academic success. Through its data-driven approach, over 17,000 asset-limited children received resources and almost 200 parents enrolled in college programs. SCGLR also partnered with organizations such as the Sarasota Housing Authority to implement several initiatives to combat educational inequities and poverty cycles.
SCGLR is also being recognized as a CGLR 2021-2022 Pacesetter for its work to address the summer and COVID slide through community collaboration, empower parents, and foster summer learning engagement between libraries and families.