W/A’s Anna Edwards joined the Campaign for Grade Level Reading to elevate the positive impact of comprehensive, cradle-to-career, place-based supports on students and families. The webinar began with a fireside chat between Geoffrey Canada of Harlem Children’s Zone and Roberto Rodriguez of the U.S. Department of Education.

During the fireside chat, Geoffrey Canada outlined why school districts must prioritize cradle-to career-investments that support all aspects of student well-being:

“This is not a question of resources. It is a question of strategy. We need a more comprehensive strategy where we address everything a child needs to thrive and build a successful future. They need safe and healthy environments to grow up in, including their neighborhoods. They need quality instruction. They need healthy foods. They need continued support not only during school but also after school during weekends and the summer. 

“With the right strategy, we can do something in this country that we’ve never done before: end intergenerational poverty in this country, It is possible – we are close.”

Anna then turned to a panel of district and nonprofit leaders providing wraparound services to students across the cradle-to-career spectrum. Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell of Oakland Unified School District shared how the district is working to fulfill its mission of providing full-service community schools to all students through initiatives in early literacy and high school mental health. Superintendent Marty Pollio of Jefferson County Public Schools then highlighted the district’s innovative partnership with Evolve 502 to create 110 community hubs that help make after-school and summer learning fun in Louisville:

The kids go to [our community hubs] every day after school and in the summer time because they love getting to play basketball, make art, and practice music. Meanwhile, we try to slip in the back door with some reading instruction and some math instruction.

We provide hubs with funding and teachers, and they give us 1 hour of math and 1 hour of reading every single day. We have also created a data-sharing agreement with all of our community hubs. So they have data on how the kids did on their assessments with us, so that they can tailor their work towards them. 

Rey Saladana of Communities in Schools and Christian Rhodes of the William Julius Wilson Institute at Harlem Children’s Zone complemented these district best practices by sharing their perspectives on how to successfully expand cradle-to-career and community school initiatives nationally. They also provided insight on how to leverage multiple funding sources to ensure long-term program sustainability.