About UsMetro-Omaha Raise Me to Read
A collective impact initiative that values parents as the most important teachers of their children & has as its focus early literacy, school readiness, reading at grade level, attendance, out of school learning & interlaced strands of community supports.
In order to join the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, an initiative must create and submit a Community Solutions Action Plan (CSAP) for review. The link to our complete document is below.
At our campaign announcement in July 2019, we used the marvelous story
THE THREE QUESTIONS by Jon J. Muth (inspired by a Leo Tolstoy story)
to describe our work.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO DO THINGS?
The only important time is now. Now is the time to align all systems to ensure that children are able to read by third grade, that they hold and hone their learning out of school, and that they show up in all aspects of their lives.
WHO IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE?
The most important one is the one you are with. Our families and communities will come to understand the imperative of early literacy, discuss it out loud and often, and embrace the change in life-trajectory literacy will create for our children.
WHAT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO?
The right thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side. The already marvelous “good-doing” occurring in this community will shift from reacting to responding, focus on individual assets, and fill any discovered gaps in services so all in our community find themselves safe and secure.
Raise Me to Read Goals
Increase number/percentage of children ready for kindergarten as measured by an appropriate evaluation tool.
OUT OF SCHOOL LEARNING:
Increase the number/percentage of children who demonstrate evidence of sustained or improved reading proficiency from one year to the next.
Increase the number/percentage of preschool – third-grade children who are present in school 95% of school days.
GRADE LEVEL READING:
Increase number/percentage of children who are reading proficiently by the end of third grade.
INTERRUPTING CHILDHOOD & GENERATIONAL POVERTY:
Increase number/percentage of children 5 and under who are living above the poverty level.
Metro-Omaha Raise Me to Read earned a “Bright Spot” award for writing several articles regarding the marvelous and varied reactions and responses in which Metro-Omaha School Districts and Entities engaged.
WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 30, 2021. The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR) announced yesterday the 54 communities that are Bright Spots for their responses to the COVID crisis last year.
Specifically, CGLR is highlighting communities that developed exemplary or innovative responses to the COVID crisis, including new or adaptive roles, programs, organizational relationships, collaborations, policies and/or resources. In particular, CGLR is recognizing communities for crafting solutions that seem especially effective, replication-worthy and/or deserving of being sustained during the post-COVID period.
The Wellbeing Partners select those working in the community to support mental and physical health and wellness. The “Wellness Inspiration Award” for work in screening the documentary RESILIENCE – The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope to weave the understanding about Adverse Childhood Experiences and toxic stress throughout the community.
Our DataWith supporting work from our backbone Metropolitan Omaha Education Consortium (MOEC), and the Center for Pubic Affairs Research at University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO), Raise Me to Read curates data including Kindergarten Readiness, 3rd Grade Proficiency, Chronic Attendance, and Poverty. Metro-Omaha RMtR has also worked with a UNO Mathematics class in Statistics (with the Service Learning Academy at UNO) to overlay poverty, income, adult education level and red-lining with student achievement and attendance. We are planning to complete this pictorial overlay with the addition of Adverse Childhood Experiences data in collaboration with The Wellbeing Partners. COMING SOON: Formative Data
Past Red-Lining and Recent Household Income, Absenteeism, and Proficiency
University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO) Service Learning Academy, Department of Mathematics in the UNO College of Art & Sciences, and Metro-Omaha Raise Me to Read worked together with a Statistics class to visually layer and realize Metropolitan Omaha Education Consortium, Nebraska Department of Education, and Census data over an Omaha area Red-Lining map. Professor Becky Brusky notes that “most Non-STEM students are apprehensive about taking GenEd Math classes. When coursework is combined with community partner projects, students know their work will have a significant impact. In our new course, students work with community partners to apply statistics, build data visualizations and bring valuable insights to their community partners”.
Many Metro-Area entities plan and compile data relating to child, family, and community success. See labels and links below.
Metro-Omaha Raise Me to Read has as its backbone the Metropolitan Omaha Educational Consortium (MOEC), and our partners include the Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy County, United Way of the Midlands, and the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. We are part of the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, and we share an Advisory Board with Southwest Iowa Raise Me to Read. The Advisory Board is comprised of cross-discipline and cross-community experts.
MOEC and Metro-Omaha RMtR are housed in the University of Nebraska Omaha Barbara E. Weitz Community Engagement Center.
Our small team receives public relations support from Maverick|PR, a student run firm at the University of Nebraska Omaha. Maverick|PR is an award winning member of Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).
Website creation and Community Advertising is supported by a dedicated RMtR team from United Way of the Midlands.
Dr. Martha Bruckner
Executive Director, Metro Omaha Educational Consortium (MOEC)
Dr. Martha Bruckner has “walked the walk” in her 45-year educational career, making her the perfect candidate to serve as the Executive Director for the Metropolitan Omaha Educational Consortium.
Throughout Bruckner’s colorful career, she has held many positions in education, such as an high school English teacher.
“I had some excellent teachers who were wonderful role models to me and when I saw the care and support they gave, I wanted to do similar good work for others.”
Bruckner enjoyed working with students who were struggling and helping them see they could be successful while also celebrating their accomplishments.
Bruckner has served in a plethora of administrative positions as well, such as an assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent, superintendent, and professor for the Department of Education Administration at the university of Nebraska at Omaha.
“As a teacher, I valued administrators who listened carefully and were most concerned about helping students succeed. I wanted to be that kind of administrator.”
Bruckner said that the MOEC Executive Director position sounded like something that would be meaningful and important.
“MOEC is important because the Omaha Metro is unique in the fact that there are so many different school districts,” Bruckner says. “It’s important to make sure we collaborate with each other, that we support each other, that we build bridges instead of walls.”
As executive director, Bruckner collaborates with MOEC’s Steering Committee to set goals and create workgroups that solve issues within the metro’s individual school districts. “It can’t be about competing with each other; we shouldn’t be keeping any secrets,” Bruckner says. “If somebody figures out how to make something better, we should share it with our colleagues so that everybody gets a chance to make things better. I think that’s one of the best things MOEC can do.”
In the next three to five years, Bruckner hopes that MOEC will continue to be an important and respected collaborative force, supporting school districts and colleges to seek increased success for all students. “It’s important that collaboration among community educational leaders is considered vital and effective.”
Bruckner says MOEC, along with educators, will shift focus back to educational improvement in time as they must first navigate uncertain territory regarding Covid1-19. “Students, teachers, and educational leaders have each had their paradigms of education changed drastically. As we learn more about remote or distance learning at the same time as we learn about combating an insidious virus,” Bruckner says, “we have sometimes reverted to more focusing on management rather than seeking improvement.
Amidst a pandemic, Bruckner feels educational professionals will have learned some important lessons that will make the Omaha-metro schools better in the long-run.
Pre-pandemic, in her free time, Bruckner loved to travel and spend time with friends and family. Although the pandemic has restricted her options, Bruckner says it’s an extremely important piece of her life.
Kathleen Knudsen, M.S.EdAd
Facilitator, Metro Omaha Raise Me to Read
Kathleen Knudsen understands the importance of a positive engaging influence on a child. As the facilitator for the Metro-Omaha chapter of the Raise Me to Read initiative, she works to ensure that young children are participating in activities that engage their minds and contribute to their development.
Knudsen’s work is multifaceted. She conducts research regarding early childhood development for baseline and comparisons, raises awareness on the impact of adverse childhood experience, and meets with partners and allies in the community.
All her endeavors within Metro-Omaha Raise Me to Read stem from a passion to help young children reach their potential. Knudsen knows how impactful early experiences are from her own childhood.
“I was raised in a house full of music and books,” Knudsen says. “There was always someone singing, playing, reading, or discussing big ideas.”
Her father sang in a barbershop quartet and her mother played the organ and arranged music for her own and several other churches and for weddings and funerals.
Knudsen’s childhood experience eventually led her to first study English, and then major in music at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. But it wasn’t just music that influenced her future. She also played catcher on a AAA fast pitch team. Knudsen says she became aware of her ability to “see the field” and to develop her competitive edge as a softball player. This motivated her to eventually earn master’s degrees in music and educational administration from UNO.
Early in her career, Knudsen enjoyed many different roles from teaching Honors English & Senior Project at Valley High School to conducting the choir at Duchesne Academy. She later became a School Administrative Manager (SAM) at Carter Lake Elementary.
During her decade at Carter Lake, she more fully realized the difficulties young children often face outside of the classroom. She is still haunted from the death of one of her students due to persistent child endangerment. This led Knudsen to search for alternative ways to ways to help the children with whom she worked.
“I was looking for the Rosetta Stone to solve student behaviors and staff response”, Knudsen said.
She took steps to learn more, including attending the first US Trauma Informed Schools Conference and providing training for school staff which demonstrated that trauma and adversity affect a student’s ability to learn. Her experiences led Knudsen to understand that teaching and working with students is so much more than test scores.
“Great teachers understand that rigor and relationships are equally important, but you can’t get to rigor without first having relationships with students.”
A lack of awareness regarding these issues motivates Knudsen in her current role at Metro-Omaha Raise Me to Read, an initiative supported by the Metropolitan Omaha Educational Consortium (MOEC). Her ability to “see the field” helps her focus on the students as whole persons, rather than simply pupils.
Knudsen’s experiences as someone who grew up in an involved and talented family – though also one with underlying circumstances that included four ACE’s – has equipped her to foster students’ growth and well-being.
Despite challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, Knudsen says she still focuses on the future and its potential to better serve children and their families. “My goal is to engage the community, spreading the message that parents and other caring adults are the first and most important teachers of children, and that reading by 3rd grade is essential for future school & life success.”
In her free time, Knudsen enjoys walking, reading, writing, and tending to several gardens.
University of Nebraska-Omaha
6001 Dodge Street
Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center 223.4
Omaha, NE 68182