Connecticut Commission on Children: An Agency of the Connecticut General Assembly
The Connecticut Commission on Children
dancing kids logo General Assembly logo 18-20 Trinity Street
Hartford, Connecticut 06106-1591

Phone: (860) 240-0290  | Fax: (860) 240-0248 | E-mail

April 2, 2012
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For more information, contact:
Kevin Flood
Communications Director

Experts on reading instruction gathering in Hartford Thursday for an urgent forum, ‘Every Child Reading by the Third Grade’

HARTFORD—When it comes to reading skills, only one-third of African-American and Hispanic third-graders are meeting or exceeding the "goal" level of the Connecticut Mastery Test, compared to more than two-thirds of white students. For some time now, our state has had the largest reading gap in the nation.

An urgent forum on how reading is taught in our schools-and how it can be improved-will be held in Room 1-C of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford on Thursday, April 5, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The event is sponsored by the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus of the General Assembly, the Connecticut Commission on Children, Literacy How, Haskins Laboratories, and the Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS).

Academic experts, school superintendents, teachers, parents, and students will participate, including one of the best-known experts in the country: Reid Lyon, former chief of child development and behavior at the National Institutes for Health. Dr. Lyon served as coordinator of the National Reading Panel and has authored numerous books and articles on reading difficulties, developmental neuroscience, and education policy. He is currently the distinguished scientist at the School of Brain and Behavior Science at the University of Texas and professor of education policy at Southern Methodist University, Dallas.

Joining him will be Ralph Smith, executive vice president of the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation. An outspoken leader on the need to improve literacy and close the achievement gap, Mr. Smith helped design the Annie E. Casey Foundation's comprehensive effort to improve child outcomes by strengthening families and neighborhoods. In addition, he has partnered with the National League of Cities to spotlight towns that bolster student literacy through substantive education policy.

Another participant will talk about her success in closing a major achievement gap. As director of curriculum for the public schools in Montgomery County, Maryland, Ann Bedford led an intensive effort to improve teacher training, use modern tools to conduct assessments, and rely on research-based intervention methods. As a result, Montgomery County narrowed its achievement gap by 20 points in just five years.

Jule McCombes-Tolis, a professor at Saint Joseph College in West Hartford who has written extensively on teacher training, will give an overview of what Connecticut teachers know about the latest methods in reading instruction and where improvements can be made.

Also offering their perspectives will be parents and two school principals: Gerald Martin of the Rawson School in Hartford and Gary Highsmith of Hamden High School.

The discussion will be moderated by Commission on Children Executive Director Elaine Zimmerman, who is available for interviews.

About the Commission on Children: Created with bipartisan support in 1985 by the Connecticut General Assembly, the Commission on Children brings together the various levels of government, the private sector, nonprofit agencies, and philanthropy to promote public policies in the best interests of children. Its board members, who serve as volunteers, are appointed by legislative leaders of both parties. It has a staff of six. For more information, visit

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