Data Drives Development of Reading Initiative

Author: Jake Cowan and Tom Kingsley
Date Posted: August 29, 2011

The Ochs Center, formally known as the Community Research Council (CRC), in Chattanooga, TN provided support for the development of Hamilton County’s Reading Initiative.4 At the request of the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, the CRC produced a report with a demographic overview of the county, a discussion of demographic factors that may affect reading capacity and detailed data related to pre-school and K through 3 interventions in the county. The July 2005 report, “Demographic and Social Characteristics Affecting Reading Capacity in Hamilton County”, presents the most recent data – on a school-by-school basis – on the ability of third graders to read at grade level in County public schools. It featured demographic data such as population growth, racial diversity and educational attainment. In addition, enrollment and test score data is presented for public and private schools. The findings from 2004 test data included that in 14 of 48 public schools, fewer than 80 percent of students were achieving reading proficiency by third grade. The students failing to achieve reading proficiency were also more likely to be economically disadvantaged and more likely to be African-American.

The Reading Initiative recommended the creation of a countywide program under the auspices of the County Mayor. The County Mayor has taken ownership of the Initiative’s goal of ensuring that 95 percent of all third graders are reading at grade level by 2010 and has appointed a Chief Reading Officer for Hamilton County.

CRC is now in the process of working with the Chief Reading Officer to develop an annual Reading Report Card to monitor progress on the Initiative.

This story was initially published in Stories: Using Information in Community Building and Local Policy in June 2007.

This story was written by staff at the Urban Institute, drawn from documents and interviews with David Eichenthal of The Ochs Center. The Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies was the Chattanooga partner in the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, a learning network coordinated by the Urban Institute, at the time of the story. All partners ensure communities have access to data and the skills to use information to advance equity and well-being across neighborhoods.

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