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The Big Bang

A child’s ability to read at or above reading level at 3rd grade is a critical indicator of a child’s success in school and life. Children who do not read at grade level by third grade face a greater risk of struggling academically in future years, developing behavioral and social problems at school, failing to graduate and living in poverty as adults. The Rockford Register Star announced that 83 percent of third graders attending Rockford Public Schools are reading below grade level. 

After hearing this information, Alignment Rockford, Transform Rockford, and the Northern Illinois Center for Nonprofit Excellence (NICNE) hosted a half-day workshop facilitated by the Tamarack Institute. The purpose of this workshop was to learn more about the scope of the problem and work with invited community members on determining obstacles and improving outcomes. This workshop identified a group of people who are willing to help at different levels for this initiative. 

In the following months, The Winnebago County Office gathered prominent Rockford leaders to place emphasis on reading outside of school, particularly during the summer, to prevent children from falling back during summer and to celebrate reading as a culture. The #Read815 Challenge worked to promote the importance of reading and gained national attention from Rockford-boRN celebrities like Dean Lowry (NFL Green Bay Packers) and Fred VanVleet (NBA Toronto Raptors). The purpose of these initiatives was to create awareness and urgency around 3rd grade reading. However, the importance of this topic created a larger movement…  

"It's about resilience. It's about health outcomes. It's about school attendance. It's about Pre-K, access to immunizations, nutrition, and social work. There are far too many obstacles that are getting in the way of getting reading right. "
Dr. Rev. Matthew Johnson
Senior Pastor, Unitarian Universalist Church

Erikson Institute and the EDI Tool

There was a lot of deliberation after the summit, and while 3rd grade reading levels are important, the reason why students may not read at 3rd grade levels can happen well before 3rd grade, and may not have anything to do with reading. After the discussion about 3rd grade reading among the community, Rockford Public Schools attended a conference with the Erikson Institute, a Chicago graduate school focused on early childhood development. The stars aligned, and Erikson and RPS started a new partnership. Erikson brings something new to the table that hadn’t been considered before: The Early Development Instrument (EDI), a population-based measure similar to a kindergarten census. The Erikson institute focuses on using the EDI to determine the vulnerabilities of a population’s children in the five developmental domains: Physical Health and Well-Being, Social Competence, Emotional Maturity, Language and Cognitive, and Communication Skills. By measuring these domains for every child at the kindergarten level, the community will be able to see where our children are struggling. The results from the create maps, and these heat maps will overlay other geographical data like transit routes, medical clinics, parks, community centers, and more. Read more about Erikson, and the EDI by clicking the button below. 

Developmental Domains

Each kindergarten teacher will complete a 103 question survey on each of their students against the following domains:

Measures motor development, energy levels, preparedness for the school day and restroom independence. E.g., Can the child hold a pencil? Is the Child able to manipulate objects? Is the child on time for school? 

Number of items in questionnaire: 13

Measures behavior in structured environments including cooperation, respect for others and socially responsible behavior. E.g., Is the child eager to read a new book? 

Number of items in questionnaire: 26

Measures behaviors in less formal environments focusing on helping others, and demonstrating empathy. E.g., Does the child comfort a child who is crying and upset? Does the child help clean up a mess? 

Number of items in questionnaire: 30

Measures an interest in books, reading, language skills, literacy and math-related activities. E.g. Is the child interested in reading and writing? Can the child count and recognize numbers? Is the child able to read simple sentences? 

Number of items in questionnaire: 26

Measures the ability to clearly communicate one’s own needs, participate in storytelling, and general interest in the world. E.g., Can the child tell a story? Can the child communicate with adults and children? Can the child take part in imaginative play? 

Number of items in questionnaire: 8

Mapping

Once the surveys are collected, the data is interpreted onto area maps, which will show where children have strengths and opportunities for growth across a geographic area. This population approach provides a community-level understanding in child development that local municipalities, schools, service providers and other stakeholders can use to inform where efforts and resources should be focused. Below are some examples of the maps from other Erikson communities.

After the mapping is made public, the communities, organizations, and industry leaders will work on creating solutions for those vulnerable areas. The Ready to Learn Team is ready to make a difference! We thank our partners for this initiative, including: 

  • Rockford Public Schools
  • Private and Parochial Schools
  • Transform Rockford Neighborhoods and Families Team
  • United Way
  • Winnebago County Health Department
  • Rockford Register Star
  • KIDS 
  • One Body Collaborative
  • The Literacy Council
  • Goodwill
  • Faith-Based Institutions
  • Rock Valley College
  • University of Illinoise College of Medicine
  • Northern Illinois Center of Nonprofit Excellence (NICNE)
  • Youth Services Network
  • Rockford Park District
  • Discovery Center
  • Rockford Police Department
  • Carpenters Place
  • CASA
  •  Crusader Community Health
  • Rockford Public Library 

…and many more! 

Click the buttons below to see more resources on the Erikson Institute and the EDI.