Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Establishes Arizona Literacy Director Position


Marilee Dal Pra talks to Sonoran Living about the importance of reading at grade-level.

VIRGINIA G. PIPER CHARITABLE TRUST Press Release
February 22, 2012

Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Establishes Arizona Literacy Director Position

Working in partnership with the Arizona Department of Education, Arizona Head Start Collaboration Office, First Things First, and other local philanthropic partners, Piper Trust is investing in a full-time consulting position to lead state efforts in early literacy.

“There is an urgency to connect existing public and private early literacy programs and identify opportunities that address critical gaps. The literacy director will afford the state a dedicated expert to ensure Arizona’s literacy directives are effectively supported and our children—Arizona’s future workforce—are gaining the foundation they need in language acquisition and literacy,” said Judy Jolley Mohraz, president and CEO, Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust.

Nothing is more pivotal in a child’s early educational experience than developing strong language skills and learning to read proficiently. All other academic learning depends on these two factors being soundly in place. I deeply appreciate Piper Trust’s work in the field of early literacy and its Board of Trustees’ forward thinking decision to fully fund a state literacy director in Arizona—clearly we share a common commitment and determination to ensure all of our children develop solid language and literacy skills,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction, John Huppenthal.

In the 2013-14 school year, the Arizona revised state statute 15-701 (“Move On When Reading”) takes effect, emphasizing reading proficiency by the end of third grade; students scoring far below on Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) may be retained in the third grade until they meet the rigorous reading specifications set forth in the Arizona English Language Arts Standards. This new law will provide for extended time, intervention, and remedial strategies for students who are not promoted to fourth grade.The Arizona literacy director will methodically connect the dots among standards, programs, needs, and gaps and support implementation of Arizona’s State Literacy Plan—all critical elements to ensure reading by the end of third grade.

Research shows a strong correlation between third grade reading levels and vocational success; reading at grade level by third grade has proven a strong predictor of: ninth grade course performance, high school graduation, and college attendance.

“The number of words a child knows at age three is directly related to reading and comprehension levels at ages nine and ten. Piper Trust has shown great foresight in establishing a position with the sole purpose of ensuring that all facets of our education system—from homes and child care centers to preschools and elementary schools—are working together to offer our kids a coordinated, comprehensive path from birth to school readiness to third grade reading,” said Rhian Allvin, CEO, First Things First.

First Things First is a critical partner organization that works to create a family-centered, comprehensive, quality early childhood system for Arizona’s children.

“By supporting kids from birth to age five with literacy rich environments, creative programs, and activities that foster pre-literacy skills, we give children the tools to achieve in school and in life—enhancing their future and ours,” added Allvin.

Washington D.C.-based Partnership for 21st Century Skills has outlined the essential skills children need to succeed as citizens and workers in the 21st century—reading being at the top of the list. The foundational skill for school-based learning is reading—children are “learning to read” up through third grade—by fourth grade they must be “reading to learn” as they are now expected to move on and master more complex learning.

“I welcome the opportunity to join forces for this most important cause: strong literacy skills for all of Arizona’s children so they are fully prepared to participate and contribute in the competitive 21st century workforce,” said Huppenthal.

For more information about the Arizona literacy director position and how to apply – go to: www.pipertrust.org/azliteracydirector. Application deadline is March 15, 2012.

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About Piper Trust:
A private independent foundation, Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust honors Virginia Galvin Piper’s philanthropic commitment to changing lives and strengthening community in Maricopa County (Arizona). By investing in nonprofits and encouraging strategic planning for the future, Piper Trust strives to make Maricopa County a stronger, more nurturing and vibrant community. Since it began awarding grants in 2000, Piper Trust has invested $285 million in local nonprofits and programs. The Trust had total grants paid of $21.6 million in fiscal year 2011. Piper Trust grantmaking areas are healthcare and medical research, children, older adults, arts and culture, education and religious organizations. For more information, visit www.pipertrust.org

Media Contact:

Karen Leland 480-556-7125 / kleland@pipertrust.org
Director, Communications and External Relations
Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust
1202 East Missouri Avenue
Phoenix, Arizona 85014