In 2009, The McKnight Foundation adopted a goal to dramatically increase the number of students who reach the critical milestone of third-grade reading proficiency, an indicator predictive of later academic outcomes and high school graduation (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). Research suggests that ensuring third-grade reading proficiency requires starting early—before children even get to kindergarten—and then providing high-quality early elementary instruction to sustain and strengthen those gains (The Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2010; Camilli, Ryan, Vargas, & Barnett, 2010).
The McKnight Foundation understood that improving outcomes for high-needs students1 is complex and multi-faceted work, and would take significant time. The Foundation sought a long-term partnership (up to 10 years) with a set of local schools and districts, all serving high-needs students, to put research into practice by providing high-quality, aligned, and coherent literacy experiences from PreK–3. The Pathway Schools Initiative emerged from this vision.
In 2011, The McKnight Foundation partnered with a set of districts and schools in the Twin Cities area, all serving high-needs students, on a PreK–3 literacy initiative. The Pathway Schools Initiative aims to dramatically increase the number of students who reach the critical milestone of third-grade reading proficiency, an indicator predictive of later academic outcomes and high school graduation. This report focuses on findings from Phase I of the Pathway Schools Initiative (2011–2015).
Lessons drawn from the Pathway Schools Initiative evaluation have implications for the Foundation and its partners and are informing current Phase II efforts. They also can inform the work of other actors in the field.