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Governor McDonnell Announces Earning by Learning Partnership with Richmond City Schools

Press Release

Location: Richmond, VA

Governor McDonnell today announced the Richmond Public Schools (RPS) Earning by Learning Initiative, a collaborative effort involving the governor's office, RPS, Harvard University's Education Innovation Laboratory, students' families and the business community. Earning by Learning is an innovative, research-driven program, based on the use of incentives to encourage children to read. Children select titles approved by school personnel and receive rewards for each book that he or she masters. By encouraging better performance and creating a sense of self-motivation, the Earning by Learning program is designed to increase reading comprehension and provides for student accountability through the use of computerized assessments of comprehension.

"Research shows that the end of third grade is a key pivot point, when children shift from learning to read to the later grades when they are expected to read to learn," said Governor McDonnell. "The collaborative effort, which was successfully piloted with dramatic positive results in the Dallas Public School System, has the bold but achievable goal of ensuring that all of Richmond Public School students are reading at or above grade level by the end of third grade by 2016, so that every child is on track for college and/or career success. If we can start early and align our efforts, we can ensure more children read on grade level."

The Richmond Public Schools Earning by Learning Initiative will be modeled after the Dallas model which has been in existence since 1996. Richmond Public Schools has opted to implement Earning by Learning's non-cash performance-based incentive model with all 2013-14 second graders in each of the division's elementary schools. EBL Dallas will consult with RPS in the development and implementation of the three-year program. Working with the governor's office, Richmond Public Schools will reach out to community partners to serve as reading buddies, assist with school library needs, and help create libraries at home for RPS students.

"It's been said that educational outcomes for children can be predicted as early as third grade," said Mayor Dwight C. Jones. "Working early on to break down barriers with this Earning by Learning Initiative is an innovative way to help improve those predictions for Richmond Public School children. This effort is important on so many fronts to ensure that we have a healthy, vibrant city reaching for excellence on all levels."

Harvard University's Education Innovation Laboratory (EdLabs), an education research and development lab aimed at closing the achievement gap, conducted a two-year research study of the impact of financial incentives on student achievement. The study found that:

In just 15 weeks of the Dallas EBL program's implementation, students gained nearly four months in academic growth.
Dallas EBL Learning Latino and African American male students showed an even higher gain than their female counterparts.
A year after removing the incentives, Dallas EBL students were still significantly outperforming the students in the control group.
Students who participated in Dallas' EBL program showed substantial increases in reading comprehension, overall language development, report card grades and test scores versus non-EBL students.
EdLabs will track the efficacy of the Richmond program and examine the impact of EBL on student achievement as observed in achievement test scores; report card grades; student attendance; student behavior; and matriculation.

The Earning by Learning Advancement Committee is a coalition of civic and business and leaders which will spearhead the fundraising campaign to pay the costs of the initiative. "The EBL Initiative builds on the strong work already underway in Richmond Public Schools to remove the obstacles to reading proficiency", said Bob Sledd, co-chair of the advancement committee. "Third grade reading levels are strong predictors of ninth grade performance, high school graduation and college attendance-milestones which ultimately lead to the quality and competitiveness of Virginia's workforce. It's imperative, and commendable, that the business community and school divisions continue working together to strengthen and invest in quality reading initiatives".

The co-chairs for the Earning by Learning Advancement Committee are:

Marty Barrington, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Altria Group, Inc
Peter Bernard, CEO, Bon Secours Richmond Health System
Roger Boeve, Retired Executive Vice President, Performance Food Group
Katherine Busser, Executive Vice President at Capital One
Tom Chewning, Retired Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Dominion Resources
Tom Farrell, Chairman, President and CEO, Dominion Resources
Bill Goodwin, President and Chairman, CCA Industries, Inc.
Jon King, President and CEO, Exclusive Staffing
John Luke, Chairman and CEO, MeadWestvaco
Thurston Moore, Chairman Emeritus, Hunton & Williams
Bob Sledd, Senior Economic Advisor to the Governor
Marilyn West, CEO, MHWest & Co., Inc.

Earning by Learning is the most recent initiative of Governor McDonnell's ALL STUDENTS agenda and follows measures passed by the General Assembly including the end of social promotion of third grade students who don't pass the Standards of Learning grade-level reading test. Secretary of Education Laura Fornash added, "Although schools must be accountable for helping all children achieve and providing effective teaching for all children in every classroom every day, the Earning by Learning Initiative is based on the belief that schools cannot succeed alone. Engaged communities mobilized to remove barriers, expand opportunities, and assist parents in fulfilling their roles and responsibilities to serve as full partners in the success of their children are needed to assure student success".

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