United Way Celebrates Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Success

For Immediate Release
June 19, 2015

Lillian Moss, Communications Assistant
Phone: 785.581.0244
E-mail: lillian.moss@unitedwaytopeka.org

United Way Celebrates Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Success

TOPEKA, KAN.—An official from the national Campaign for Grade Level Reading officially presented a 2014 Pacesetter award to United Way of Greater Topeka today in a celebration at the organization’s office. Mary Markowitz, Ph.D., is a Senior Consultant and Community Liaison for the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading spoke to United Way volunteers, partners and staff as well as local school and government representatives.

The only Pacesetter winner in the state of Kansas, United Way was recognized for its ongoing commitment to narrowing the reading achievement gap between children from low-income families and their more affluent peers. Pacesetter winners

  • must show measureable progress on student readiness outcomes,
  • complete rigorous self-assessments, and
  • participate in activities to strengthen their work.

Dr. Markowitz told the audience that when the Pacesetter awards were just beginning in 2012 “we gave awards to people who were just trying,” to get the Campaign underway. Now, however, the focus has shifted to honoring programs that can show measurable improvement in readiness, reading ability and attendance. United Way of Greater Topeka has been able to demonstrate improvements including:

  • In United Way supported programming, 95% of the children served improved to on-target or nearly-on-target for all of the pre-literacy skills targeted.
  • 72% of children involved in United Way supported tutoring, attendance and support services programs show an increase in academic achievement.
  • 70% of children involved in United Way supported attendance programs improved their school attendance.
  • 95% of children in United Way supported summer programming increased their vocabulary.

Ensuring that more children can read on grade level when they finish third grade is one of United Way of Greater Topeka’s community impact goals. National tests show that two-thirds of U.S. fourth graders, and four-fifths of those from low-income families, are not reading proficiently. Reading proficiency by the end of third grade is a milestone on a child’s path to high school graduation and later success because it marks the transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Students who have mastered reading by that time are more likely to succeed in school and beyond.

Much of United Way’s groundbreaking work has been done with the Pine Ridge Partnership and the resulting preschool program. However, UWGT education initiatives encompass not only pre- and early literacy, but also tutoring and mentoring for grade school success and wraparound support for families to keep kids healthy, stable and on target in school.

Both Dr. Markowitz and Miriam Krehbiel, UWGT President and CEO, applauded the partnerships made the Pacesetter award possible, thanking Topeka Public Schools, the Topeka Housing Authority and County Commissioner Shelly Buhler. “We knew at no time would we be alone in this work,” Krehbiel said. “It has been an incredible partnership.”

United Way’s work in education, financial stability and health is supported by contributions to its Community Impact Fund.  The fund provides the critical foundation for continuing, enhancing and expanding community changing work in greater Topeka. Unrestricted investments in this fund help boost the reach of UWGT’s education initiatives to the next level, expanding service areas and enhancing programs to lift even more children, families and neighborhoods to new levels of success and achievement.


United Way brings together people, companies and nonprofits to create positive sustainable change in our community. By focusing on education, financial stability and health, we help more children graduate and get stable jobs, help families become financially stable and improve the overall health of our community. United Way remains dedicated to Basic Needs including food, shelter, rent and utilities, health and prescription access and safety from domestic violence. For more than 80 years United Way of Greater Topeka has been improving and changing lives. Since 1980, United Way has invested more than $110 million into the community.

For more than 80 years United Way of Greater Topeka has been improving and changing lives. Since 1980, United Way has invested more than $110 million into the community.