Early Grade Level Success

Two preschool boys

Success in life begins with a quality education. And yet, many Champaign County children and youth enter school unprepared, lacking the support they need to strengthen their literacy and math skills and stay on track in school. Ultimately this leads to fewer students graduating high school and finding a career.

United Way of Champaign County is fighting to change the statistics. In order to build a community where every child can achieve their full potential, we must start with early education.

Kindergarten Readiness

Knowing all the letters in the alphabet. Recognizing numbers 1 to 20. The ability to actively listen to a book read aloud. Kindergarten readiness means many things.

Above all, kindergarten readiness means kids have the cognitive, social-emotional, and physical abilities and skills that prepare them to be in a formal school setting.

The problem is, not all kids come to school with the same level of skills. And when a student is too far behind, they may never catch up. 

Studies show that students who are Black, Hispanic, Native American, and from families living below the poverty line are often developmentally and academically behind their peers who are white, Asian, and from affluent families.* The gap is not inherent to a child’s cultural, socioeconomic, or geographical background but rather a result of years of economic, housing, cultural, and other policies that have disproportionately hurt people of color and who work low- and middle-skill jobs. These policies have created a gap in opportunities to learn for the children of these families.

Third Grade Reading and Math

Reading opens new worlds. With a book, kids can imagine new places, think about new ideas, and see themselves as anything they want to be. Reading is also the foundation for all learning. Learning math, science, technology, history – mastering all of these subjects requires kids to have strong reading skills.

That may be one of the reasons that research shows the single most significant factor influencing a child’s educational success is an introduction to books1. Even more important, studies demonstrate that reading proficiently by third grade leads to higher rates of graduating on time2, and earning a high school diploma helps kids avoid incarceration3, find a job that pays a sustainable wage4 and live a healthier life5

Yet too many children enter school without even the basic skills they need to learn to read. Across the US, one in four kids grows up not knowing how to read at a basic level6. The statistics are more grave for children who come from under-resourced neighborhoods. Three in five families who struggle to make ends meet have no books in their homes for their children7.

If we want all kids to be able to be successful in school and go on to pursue higher education or be qualified for a stable job, there must be a way for more kids to build their literacy skills. 

Attendance

On average, one in ten kids in kindergarten and first grade are chronically absent8 – which means they miss so much school they get behind and can’t catch up.  Chronic absence can lead to problems with literacy, passing subjects, and even graduating high school on time. 

These students are future contributors to our local businesses and communities. When they miss too much school, they fail to build the knowledge and skills they need to actively participate in our economy and society. Without capable citizens, our region may struggle to adapt to changes and thrive in the future.

That’s why United Way of Champaign County teams up with local schools and districts as well as families to help every student have the greatest chance of going to school every day. We want to make all kids strong, so our community can be strong.


Sources

*National Center for Education Statistics, Fast Facts on Knowledge and Skills of Young Children

1National Commission on Reading

2Donald J. Hernandez, Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation. The Annie E. Casey Foundation; Center

3U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics

4U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

5Center for Disease Control and Prevention

6National Assessment of Educational Progress

7Reading Literacy in the United States: Findings from the IEA Reading Literacy Study

8AttendanceWorks.org

What the Data Tells Us

Kindergarten Readiness

The 2019 Illinois KIDS survey reports 41% of Champaign Unit 4 kindergartners, 28% of Mahomet-Seymour kindergartners, 39% of Rantoul City Schools 137 kindergartners, and 35% of Urbana 116 kindergartners did not demonstrate any readiness in the three areas measured - Social/emotional development, language & literacy, and math.

 

Third Grade Reading Achievement

70% of Unit 4 and 76.7% of Urbana 116 third graders are not meeting learning standards in third grade English Language Arts - 93% and 88% for African American boys, and 88% and 96% for low-income students. In Rantoul City Schools 137, 91% of third graders are not meeting learning standards in third grade English Language Arts – 93% for Black boys.

Achievement Gap

U4 Grade 3 ELA Achievement Gap Low income students -40 compared to non-low income (state -26)

U4 Grade 3 ELA Achievement Gap Black students -42 compared to white peers (state -22)

U116 Grade 3 ELA Achievement Gap Low income students -37 compared to non-low income (state -26)

U116 Grade 3 ELA Achievement Gap Black students -22 compared to white peers (state -22)

 

Third Grade Math Achievement 

60% of Unit 4 and 81% of Urbana 116 third graders are not meeting Math learning standards - 90% and 81% for African American boys, and 85% and 92% for low-income students.

Achievement Gap

U4 Grade 3 Math Achievement Gap Black students -45 compared to their white peers (state is -32)

U4 Grade 3 Math Achievement Gap Low income students -40 compared to non-low income (state is -32)

U116 Grade 3 Math Achievement Gap Low income students -45 compared to non-low income (state is -32)

U116 Grade 3 Math Achievement Gap Black students -34 compared to white peers (state -32)

 

Chronic Absenteeism

Champaign Unit 4 - 21%

Rantoul City Schools 137 - 23%

Urbana Unit 116 - 36%

 

United Way's Early Grade Level Success Goals

  • Increase the number of students in Champaign County who demonstrate kindergarten readiness in at least one area by 10%
  • Increase the number of Black male students who are meeting learning standards in Math and English Language Arts by 10%
  • Increase the number of low-income students who are meeting learning standards in Math and English Language Arts by 10%
  • Decrease chronic absenteeism by 10%

Request for Proposals Opens May 1, 2021
Closes May 17, 2021 at 12 pm

United Way of Champaign County seeks grant applications from programs that aim to reduce the achievement gap in kindergarten readiness and 3rd grade reading among students of color in Champaign County, Illinois.

United Way's Early Grade Level Success Goals

  • Increase the number of students in Champaign County who demonstrate kindergarten readiness in at least one area by 10%
  • Increase the number of Black male students who are meeting learning standards in Math and English Language Arts by 10%
  • Increase the number of low-income students who are meeting learning standards in Math and English Language Arts by 10%
  • Decrease chronic absenteeism by 10%

$700,000 in grant funding available


Q & A Sessions

Held via Zoom

Wednesday, May 5th, 8:30 am-9:30 am

Thursday, May 6th, 11 am-noon

Email Beverley@uwayhelps.org to register.


Early Grade Level Success RFP Eligibility Requirements

  • At least 50% of the children engaged in the program are children of color
  • Applicants must maintain or establish a parent advisory committee
  • Applicants must have people of color in positions of leadership or decision-making. For eligibility at least one of the statements below must be true:
    • Agency/Organizational leadership is people of color
    • 51% or more of board members are people of color

Click HERE to learn more about eligibility and required documentation.

Measurement Requirements

Click HERE to download the metric document for Early Grade Level Success.


Grant Timeline

5/1:  Early Grade Level Success RFP opens

5/17: 12 pm RFP deadline

5/18 - 6/3: Panel of experts, United Way of Champaign County staff and key volunteers review RFP applications and schedule zoom interviews

6/3:  Community Impact Committee makes RFP recommendations to Board

6/10: Board study session with Community Impact Committee

6/24: Board vote 

6/25 - 6/30: Contracting

7/1: Grant funding begins


RFP Portal is open!

Click HERE to login to the grant portal.

Use your existing username and password to login if you have one. If you are a new organization, click on "create an e-C Impact account".

Please contact Beverley Baker at United Way of Champaign County with any questions.