New Britain Named Pacesetter Community for Third Time

(The following news release was issued by the Consolidated School District of New Britain. The Community Foundation of Greater New Britain, as part of its First Years First early childhood development initiative, is a major supporter of the Coalition for New Britain’s Youth and New Britain’s ongoing school readiness efforts.)

New Britain one of only 38 communities nationwide to be named a Pacesetter Community

New Britain, Conn., March 30 – The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading announced its Fourth Annual Pacesetter Honors and New Britain was one of 38 communities nationwide to receive the honor. According to the official website, the Campaign is a collaborative effort by foundations, nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, states and communities across the nation to ensure that more children in low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career, and active citizenship. The Campaign focuses on an important predictor of school success and high school graduation—grade-level reading by the end of third grade.

Coalition for New Britain's Youth Executive Director Robin Lamott Sparks, left, with Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Managing  Director Ralph Smith at the Fourth Annual Pacesetter Awards Ceremony in April. New Britain was one of only seven communities nationwide to be recognized in all four areas of the campaign.

Coalition for New Britain’s Youth Executive Director Robin Lamott Sparks, left, with Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Managing
Director Ralph Smith at the Fourth Annual Pacesetter Awards Ceremony in April. New Britain was one of only seven communities nationwide to be recognized in all four areas of the campaign.

Pacesetters are part of a nationwide network of more than 240 campaign communities that represent 42 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with 2,100 local organizations. 38 communities across the nation were recognized, with New Britain being one of them. Furthermore, New Britain was only one of seven communities around the United States that was recognized in all four areas studied and researched by the campaign. This includes school readiness, school attendance, summer learning and overall success.

“Pacesetter Honors are among the highest awards presented by the Campaign,” said Ralph Smith, the managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. “We are very proud of these communities and the numerous organizations and individuals behind them for joining forces and working tirelessly to uplift children and families. They remind us that we are seeing great progress and real results all across the country.”

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading cites a report from the U.S. Department of Education that states the achievement gap between children and low-income families and their more affluent peers has widened significantly in recent years, with 80 percent of low-income kids failing to read proficiently in fourth grade compared with 49 percent of their more affluent peers. Reading proficiency by the end of third grade is a milestone on a child’s path to high school graduation and career success because it marks the transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Students who have not mastered reading by that time are more likely to drop out of high school and struggle throughout their lives.

Paul Salina, Acting Superintendent, noted that test scores in New Britain have risen at a steady and significant rate over the past several years, thanks in part to community leaders and collaboration.

“The campaign to bring Grade Level Reading to public awareness was launched in April 2011. At the time, I was a board member of the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain. The Foundation, along with the New Britain Early Childhood Collaborative and members of the business community partnered with the school district to stress the importance of having students read at grade level by the end of third grade. At the time, New Britain’s children had some of the lowest test scores in the state. The campaign not only included local stake-holders, but also brought major national funders to the table including the Graustein Fund and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The last several years have seen a steady and significant rise in test scores of New Britain children as evidenced by the recognition of the Pacesetter Award honoring New Britain’s accomplishments.”

Incoming Superintendent Nancy Sarra gave credit to the community as a whole for the marked improvement in students throughout the city of New Britain.

“I am proud of our noted accomplishments over the last few years and especially proud to be a part of the collective efforts city-wide. It is our commitment to identify problem areas and leverage all available resources to improve the conditions of our families and students of New Britain. Being a finalist for the Pacesetter award validates that the work we are doing is making a difference! We truly are the city that is the best at getting better.”

Sharon Beloin-Saavedra, president of the Board of Education, has worked hard with other board members over the past decade to invest resources into early intervention opportunities and is glad to see that the results are now evident.

“Reading comprehension is fundamental to everything else. Our school system has focused a great deal of time and resources into early intervention opportunities and establishing strong community partnerships. The Board has prioritized class size reductions, attendance initiatives and summer school enrichment programs to keep our children engaged. I am proud of our educators and our children for working diligently to realize growth and visualize individual potential.”

About the Consolidated School District of New Britain

The Consolidated School District of New Britain features 17 sites housing 19 programs with over 10,000 students throughout the city. The mission of the district is to provide a rigorous and relevant, high-quality, research-based, data-driven education that meets the intellectual, physical, moral, and social developmental needs of every child.