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Elgin

A Story of Success: The Hardest Place to Live

Goals are what drive Elgin Foundation – particularly the goals of improving students’ educations, school experience, and real world-readiness. A major driver of success in each of those areas is reading ability.

In the fall of 2010, Clay County, Kentucky, had the lowest percentage of K-3 students reading above grade level in Elgin Foundation’s ten-county service area.

It also had the highest poverty rate among the ten counties and would later be called one of the “hardest places to live” in America by the New York Times.

Midyear 2010, Elgin Foundation hosted a retreat for principals and leadership from partnering schools. It was revealed that Clay County was not only last place in reading levels, but that Big Creek Elementary School in Clay County was in very last place for third graders reading above benchmark. At that retreat, Big Creek Principal Nadine Couch made a vow that she would make sure that standing changed.

She and other Clay County principals worked hand-in-hand with Elgin Foundation to implement a reading program designed to pull the county out of the lower rankings and improve reading ability for all students.

By the end of the program’s third year, more than 90% of Big Creek Elementary third graders were reading above the benchmark—one of the first schools to reach the goal.

In spring of 2015, Clay County had the highest percentage of K-3 students reading above grade level – outperforming much more affluent school districts.

This inspiring case study illustrates what is possible when a community and school commit to the goal of improving reading skills in order to improve quality of life for our students.

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