Based on FY2020-21 data, 83,920 students attended a K-12 public school in the Texas Panhandle, of which 59.5% are considered economically disadvantaged, meaning they qualify for free or reduced lunch at school. Statistics show that children in extremely low-income households entering kindergarten are 12 to 14 months behind in language and pre-reading skills due to the lack of readily accessible reading books and adults engaging in regular conversations with them, helping to build a much larger vocabulary. Literacy, beginning at an early age and by third grade, is critical for students. It is one of the fundamental skills needed in school, their future and career, and the lack of this ability means students are more likely to live and remain in poverty, as well as carry forward inter-generational poverty for their family.
In 2019, only 43% of third-grade students in the Texas Panhandle are reading on grade level, which lagged the State of Texas’ rate of 45%. Though the Panhandle remained consistent in 2021, when the data is disaggregated, we see that this was not consistent across all groups. Because of this, Amarillo Area Foundation is focusing its educational strategy to support initiatives, organizations, and partnerships aimed at improving literacy and early childhood education, with an intentional focus on promoting two-generation solutions. What are “two-generation solutions”? This means impacting the current generation to then affect the course of the immediate generation that follows. We want Texas Panhandle students to succeed in school, life, and in their future.
Our educational strategy includes:
Strategy #1: Improve Literacy
- Increase the percentage of students deemed kindergarten ready from 46% to 60% in the Texas Panhandle by 2030.
- Increase the percentage of 3rd grade students reading at grade level from 44% to 54% in the Texas Panhandle by 2030.
Strategy #2: Increase Higher Education Numbers & Workforce Programs
- Increase the number of high school graduates immediately enrolling in college from 51% to 64% by 2030.
- Expand the overall number of Texas Panhandle students participating in work-based learning opportunities which culminate in the completion of credentials leading to a family-sustaining wage.
The Education Fund at the Amarillo Area Foundation will strengthen regional educators, school districts, practitioners, and providers that support literacy for children and families in the Texas Panhandle. This fund is also aggressively providing literacy resources to give children in our community the opportunity to have a better future. Visit the following link to find out more about the Education Fund and how it is working to improve our region: Education – Amarillo Area Foundation.
Senior Vice President