Covington mobilizing on education outcomes

Early literacy campaign goes public Thursday

COVINGTON, Ky. - The City of Covington next week will formally launch a childhood literacy initiative designed to mobilize the entire community around getting the City’s youngest kids off to a better start in their school careers.
To understand the urgency of this issue, Mayor Joe Meyer says, it helps to know a few numbers.
One is 46.8 percent.
That’s the percentage of kids entering kindergarten in Covington in 2013 who - after being evaluated using a standard measure of academic, cognitive, language, and physical development - were deemed “ready” to do the work required to succeed in kindergarten.
Every year since, that number has dropped.
The new number - the latest measure of kindergarten readiness in Covington - is 40 percent. It’s the lowest number of Kenton County’s five school districts. And it’s more than 10 percentage points lower than the state average.
It means that 60 percent - almost two-thirds - of children entering kindergarten in Covington are unprepared to do kindergarten-level work.
“Barring aggressive intervention, children who begin their school career behind are further behind at the end of the year, and year by year that gap grows,” Mayor Meyer said. “We have to mobilize as a collective community around improving kindergarten readiness - both because it will take the entire community to address this problem and because we all have a stake in the outcome.
“From worker productivity to household income to the City’s image to our ability to recruit businesses and jobs, the entire future of Covington, and the quality of life of our citizens, depends upon the education of our kids,” the Mayor said.
Almost two dozen community partners have joined the Covington Early Literacy Initiative united behind the idea that complex problems with wide-ranging consequences demand aggressive solutions with a strong collaborative effort.
The initiative will be formally launched during a public event at 4 p.m. Thursday at The Carnegie, 1028 Scott Blvd. The launch will include the unveiling of a name and visual brand as part of a marketing campaign designed to mobilize the community. It will also unveil details of the various strategies involved in the campaign.
The initiative has two measurable goals: To increase the percentage of children who enter kindergarten prepared and able to do the work, and to increase the percentage of children reading on grade level by the end of the third grade.
To accomplish those goals, a variety of strategies will be employed, said Mary Kay Connolly, who was hired by the City to coordinate the initiative: 
  • The use of early literacy apps that will be free for parents living in Covington zip codes. The apps are designed to help parents introduce reading skills to their young children and share time reading together. (More on the apps below.) 
  • Monthly literacy events, with the first one in the City Heights public housing complex on Nov. 15. (City Heights is home to 258 children age 5 or younger, and an additional 219 youth age 6 to 13, according to a recent demographic analysis.) 
  • community-wide push to introduce the apps to parents and encourage their use. 
  • highly visible marketing campaign designed by BLDG of Covington that will include storefronts and public places throughout the City - all designed to galvanize the community.
 “The marketing campaign will stress the need for active adult involvement in bringing reading material to every child’s level, while the campaign itself, with its apps, will make it easier for adults to do that,” Connolly said.
The partners
Seven sponsors are helping to fund the initiative, and 11 officials from a diverse group of agencies form an executive committee.
But the initiative also has formal support from about two dozen partnering agencies and organizations, many of whom are already engaged in improving childhood literacy, Connolly said.
Point people within those partnering organizations will drive the visibility of the campaign while also helping parents sign up for the apps and participate.
Among the many partners who have substantive roles and buy-in, Meyer said, are officials from both Covington Independent Schools and the Diocese of Covington, which oversees parochial schools.
The partners also include health groups, government agencies, childhood advocates, business groups and early childhood care providers, essentially agencies and organizations who work with children before they’re old enough to attend school andthose who interact with graduates of Covington schools.
Why the City?
The City is stepping in to lead the initiative for a variety of reasons, Meyer said:
  • The challenges begin even before children start school. As the readiness numbers show, too many Covington children enter school with learning deficits and challenges and struggle to catch up.
  • The initiative will target students from both public and parochial schools in Covington.
  • Early childhood education is the responsibility of the entire community, not just schools or families.
  • City government represents all those impacted by the academic success or failure of Covington’s children: families, schools, businesses, and taxpayers.
  • The City is best positioned to bring together the diverse partners required for the initiative to succeed: Community leaders, schools, churches, neighborhood organizations, pediatricians, librarians, businesses, social service agencies, thought leaders etc. 
The initiative is a good and effective use of tax dollars because the potential return on investment - a more educated populace and workforce, a better image for the City etc. - is so large and varied, he said.
“There is a clear and direct line between education levels and every challenge any community faces, whether that’s employment, stable housing, poverty, crime, addiction, civic engagement or job creation,” Meyer said. “And the key to a more successful education ‘career’ starts before a child enters kindergarten, with a good foundation. That’s our goal.”
The apps
The Footsteps2Brilliance/CleverKidsUniversity dual apps are run on the same platform by the same company.
CleverKids caters to children ages 2 to 5, and Footsteps to children ages 5 to 8. They offer sequential, fun pre-reading and early reading content, including thousands of books, games, and literacy activities.
Children attending school can sign up for the app with help from their teachers. Children in preschool or child-care facilities in many instances can do the same.
Or Covington residents can go to to create free parent and children accounts. The registered adult will receive a username and password to log into the apps and also your children’s Super Secret Code.
Using any smart phone, tablet, laptop, or computer, parents can download the free apps but should download only the books, songs, and games that they plan to use. It is notnecessary to download the entire app at one time. This could slow down your device or use too much data at one time.
For a video that explains the Footsteps2Brilliance app, see the Covington Independent Public Schools website HERE.
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