Nationally, fewer than one in five children reading on grade level in 3rd grade go on to college.1 Moreover, every student who fails to complete high school costs our community ~$260K in lost taxes, earnings, and productivity.2 Given this research, last spring the Commit! Partnership began working with 14 Dallas Independent School District (DISD) elementary schools that feed into the South Oak Cliff (SOC) and Molina high schools in South and West Dallas to support student early literacy proficiency.

In 2013, 951 3rd graders (or 75%) across SOC/Molina did not achieve a college-ready reading state test score.3 With DISD and several others, the Partnership has focused on supporting these 14 elementary schools in five areas essential to early literacy:

In 2013-2014, 8 of 14 schools closed the 3rd grade reading gap both with the District and the State.4 Yet, sparked by data showing the need to provide greater support prior to 3rd grade, principals and teachers saw an opportunity to improve further through professional development.

Launched in September, the “SOC Reading Academy” supports nearly 30 K-3rd grade teachers who have voluntarily committed to the initiative. The SOC Reading Academy is grounded on the tenets of Great Habits, Great Readers, a district resource by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo, and is facilitated by Clarissa Plair, who has over 30 years of reading and leadership experience.

The sessions consist of engaging weekly sessions that involve book/video discussion, data analysis, and lesson planning. Ms. Valentin, 2nd grade teacher at Russell Elementary, has found the first two sessions very helpful: “The Habits of the Classroom and the Classroom Setup sessions helped me visualize my classroom transitions and how to maximize the classroom space.”

Usamah Rodgers, Executive Director of the SOC feeder pattern, is excited about the potential impact of the Reading Academy: “The first two sessions got off to a great start, and I am pleased we exceeded our initial goal of launching with 20 teachers. Teachers are enthusiastic about the opportunity to develop their craft. I’m excited about how they’ll grow this year through this opportunity and the impact this will have on student achievement.”

The following organizations are part of the Commit! Partnership supporting SOC/Molina elementary schools in 2013-2014 and/or 2014-15:

Dallas Independent School District
Boston Consulting Group
Teach For America
Catch Up and Read
Teen Trendsetters
Leadership ISD
Jiv Daya Foundation
Reading Partners
Momentous Institute
University of North Texas at Dallas

To learn more about this work or to get involved, please contact Andy Canales at

1The Annie E. Casey Foundation. “Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters: A KIDS COUNT Special Report.” 2010.
2Riley and Peterson, 2008
32012-2013 and 2013-2014 publicly released Pearson 3rd grade Reading data
42012-2013 and 2013-2014 publicly released Pearson 3rd grade Reading data