Mayor, superintendent and BNSF executive chairman join forces to lead effort

FORT WORTH, Texas – With more than 830,000 residents, Fort Worth is one of the fastest-growing large cities in the United States and ranked among the best cities in which to raise a family and to find a job.

But only three of every 10 third-graders in the 87,000-student Fort Worth Independent School District is reading on grade level, ready to learn in fourth grade and beyond, and on a solid path toward future success.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, Fort Worth school district Superintendent Kent P. Scribner and BNSF Railway Executive Chairman Matthew K. Rose announced today that they will lead an unprecedented coalition of business, civic, education, philanthropic, nonprofit and volunteer leaders to ensure that 100 percent of Fort Worth third-graders are reading to learn – not learning to read – by 2025.

The Fort Worth literacy partnership will serve as a backbone organization that connects and supports existing initiatives, programs and providers and provides data-driven analyses to engage the community, identify areas of opportunity and scale up what works to dramatically improve early reading skills for children from birth through third grade. Fort Worth leaders are working with the Commit! Partnership, a Dallas County-focused education coalition, to provide data analytics and other services that will guide further research and resource alignment.

The partnership will be based on a collective impact model recognizing that schools care for a city’s children for a portion of their days, but that quality child care and early learning programs, pre-K, before school- and after-school care, summer youth programs, among other services, must align resources and work together if children are to master early literacy skills.

Kristin N. Sullivan, previously an associate vice president for communications at The University of Texas at Arlington, has been appointed executive director for the partnership. She previously served as a longtime reporter and editor for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Price said, “Fort Worth has built a reputation as a big city with a small-town feel, one known for its thriving business, cultural, philanthropic and educational institutions. It’s time for us to focus on increasing excellence in our elementary schools and teaching all of our children to be confident readers early on. It’s critical to our city’s economic vitality and future success.”

National studies point to third grade as the make or break point in a child’s life when he or she is either reading to learn – ready for success in fourth grade and beyond – or still learning to read.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation says that 75 percent of students who struggle with reading in third grade never catch up, and that those students are four times as likely to drop out of high school. But the right resources and research-based interventions can change the learning trajectories for those students.

“Childhood literacy can determine success in all subjects, including math and science,” Dr. Scribner said. “This unprecedented venture will ensure all children in Fort Worth are prepared for success in college, career, and community leadership.”

Rose, who served as president and CEO of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway before moving into the executive chairman role in 2014, agreed to spearhead the effort at the request of Mayor Price.

“Corporations and businesses that consider establishing their headquarters in Fort Worth want to be in areas where employees can find great schools for their children,” Rose said. “This city is fortunate to have a strong network of private, charter and religious schools. But this will be an even better city for business when we elevate more Fort Worth ISD elementary schools.”

The Fort Worth literacy partnership will work closely with the Fort Worth school district, city leaders, early childhood service providers, neighborhood leaders, educators and many others to build a solid fact base of programs, initiatives and resources focused on early childhood literacy.

The partnership will work to:

  • Define, support and expand effective, school-based volunteer reading programs, especially on campuses with the greatest need.
  • Develop, support and promote a summer 2017 literacy campaign that will encourage and celebrate youth services providers who include measurable literacy components in their programs and daily schedules.
  • Encourage and support a common pre-K enrollment period to increase the number of 4-year-olds enrolled in quality early learning programs, both within FWISD and among private providers.
  • Develop and publish a public, web portal that offers a view of third-grade reading achievement at each of the FWISD’s 83 elementary campuses over time and allows users to easily see track progress toward to the 100×25 goal.

Longer-term strategies likely will focus on building teaching excellence in the early grades, encouraging the most effective teachers to serve in schools where they are needed most and identifying and spreading successful parent engagement programs. The partnership will engage community organizations and encourages an entrepreneurial spirit as partners align resources, mobilize and shape solutions together.

Read more about the Fort Worth literacy partnership and connect with us at, on Facebook and @ReadFortWorth on Twitter.


Media contacts:

Kristin Sullivan,

Cheraya Peña,

Barbara Griffith,

Sep, 28, 2016