Florida Campaign

An alarming number of children – about 67 percent nationwide and more than 80 percent of those from low-income families – are not proficient readers by the end of third grade. This has significant and long-term consequences not only for each of those children, but for their communities and our nation as a whole. If left unchecked, this problem will undermine efforts to end intergenerational poverty, close the achievement gap and reduce high school dropout rates. Far fewer of the next generation will be prepared to succeed in a global economy, participate in higher education or enter military and civilian service.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading was launched to reverse this potentially catastrophic trend by supporting common-sense solutions at the federal, state and local levels. In communities nationwide, the Campaign works within three solution areas proven to move the needle on third grade reading proficiency:

The Campaign also recognizes the influence of health and parents on the success of these solution areas.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a collaborative effort by foundations, nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, states and communities across the nation to ensure that more children in low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career and a life of active citizenship. The Campaign focuses on an important predictor of school success and high school graduation: grade-level reading by the end of third grade.

Research shows that proficiency in reading by the end of third grade enables students to shift from learning to read to reading to learn and to master the more complex subject matter they encounter in the fourth grade curriculum. Most students who fail to reach this critical milestone falter in the later grades and often drop out before earning a high school diploma. Yet two-thirds of U.S. fourth graders are not proficient readers, according to national reading assessment data. This disturbing statistic is made even worse by the fact that more than four out of every five low-income students miss this critical milestone.

Although schools must be accountable for helping all children achieve, providing effective teaching for all children in every classroom every day, the Campaign is based on the belief that schools cannot succeed alone. Engaged communities mobilized to remove barriers, expand opportunities and assist parents in fulfilling their roles and responsibilities to serve as full partners in the success of their children are needed to assure student success. View this infographic to learn more about the Campaign’s approach to building a movement around early-childhood literacy.

Florida Campaign Leadership

Michele Watson

Michele Watson

CEO of the Florida Children’s Council

Michele Watson is the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Florida Children’s Council. In this role, Michele provides leadership for the businesses, organizations, agencies and other key stakeholders involved with the Council. Michele has been involved with the work of the Council for many years, utilizing her expertise in data analysis and system development in the areas of education, policy and finance. Her efforts have helped make business cases for the need for increased investments and policy changes in education. Having received a degree in early childhood education from Florida State University, Michele began her career as an educator for the Polk County School Board for eight years. Upon moving to Tallahassee, she became the Policy Chief for Florida’s Office of Early Learning where she was responsible for coordinating early learning policy with the Florida Legislature as well as 31 local early learning coalitions. In 2012, Michele founded Watson Policy Solutions to focus on helping organizations identify systemic issues, develop new processes, and create system improvements to ensure maximum efficiency that allows entities to focus more on mission activities and services.

Jenn Faber

Jenn Faber

Director of Grade-Level Reading at the Florida Children’s Council

Jennifer Faber is the Director of Grade-Level Reading at the Florida Children’s Council, providing leadership support and coordination for all aspects of the Florida Grade Level Reading Campaign. She works closely with the existing and developing community campaigns by providing technical assistance to the Community Leaders Network, ensuring access to resources needed to set outcomes for children, implement aligned activities, and demonstrate progress toward goals. Additionally, Ms. Faber helps facilitate connectivity among the campaign’s Early Childhood Policy Thought Leaders Forum, the Early Learning Business Leaders Alliance and the Funders Collaborative to ensure synergy and alignment throughout the campaign.

After earning her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration & Sport Management at Robert Morris University (Pennsylvania), Ms. Faber relocated to Florida in 1986 to continue her career in early education. She co-authored the Florida Standards for Quality Afterschool Programs and the Florida Core Competencies for Afterschool Practitioners; served as the content expert for Florida Department of Children & Families online school-age modules; served eight years on the Florida After School Alliance Board of Directors; was a founding member of the Florida Afterschool Network; served as an Afterschool Alliance Ambassador and afterschool accreditation endorser; and lead several statewide network initiatives focused on provider/child relationships, early learning curriculum and quality afterschool services. Her extensive background in early learning and her reputation as a high-energy trainer has led to speaking engagements in 38 states as well as Germany and Japan.

Over the past thirty years, Ms. Faber has advocated for early learning issues, written articles for local, state and national publications, provided training and technical assistance to a wide variety of audiences, and assisted in the design of Florida’s early learning and afterschool professional-development systems. Her endless commitment and enthusiasm to “provide quality early learning experiences for all children” has made her lifelong work a daily pleasure!

Kristi Biffar

Kristi Biffar

Program Associate, Florida Grade-Level Reading Campaign

Kristi Biffar is an independent consultant for the Florida Campaign for Grade Level Reading. She provides overall support to the Campaign, including administrative, planning, and internet-based supports. Kristi brings with her nearly 12 years of experience at the Early Learning Coalition of Southwest Florida, where she served most recently as the Director of Early Childhood. Her work there focused on improving the quality of child care providers across Southwest Florida, including training, coaching, assessing, and mentoring child care providers in Lee, Collier, Hendry, and Glades counties. Her career at the Coalition also included roles such as the infant toddler provider consultant, quality trainer, and child care resource and referral supervisor.

Kristi holds a Master of Science in Birth to Three: Development and Intervention from Wheelock College, now part of Boston University. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in Family, Child, and Consumer Sciences from Florida State University. Kristi is involved in collective impact work in the Southwest Florida area as part of the FutureMakers Coalition. As a FutureMaker, she was instrumental in the writing and development of a children’s book entitled Power of PreK, designed to inform families of the importance of early childhood education and to get children excited to attend preschool and PreK. Kristi was also the key creator of the regional Quality Rating and Improvement System for SWFL called Southwest Florida Stars, a program designed to recognize providers for their current level of quality and encourage them to continually strive towards improvement.

Kristi is a native Floridian and grew up in Fort Myers, Florida. She ventured north to Tallahassee and Boston for about 6 years, before deciding it was just too cold and came back to Fort Myers to thaw out. She lives there now with her husband, Joe, their two school age children, and their tiny but rambunctious dog, Madison.

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