Roanoke Receives New Pacesetter Honors For Grade-Level Reading

The National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR) has recognized the City of Roanoke with Pacesetter Honors for the work done in 2018 through the Star City Reads initiative. Roanoke was recognized as a Pacesetter in all three of 2018’s categories, most notably for raising third grade reading proficiency rates. Since 2013, grade-level reading rates have improved from 65.1% to 74.2% for all Roanoke City Public Schools third graders, as measured by pass rates on the Virginia Standards of Learning reading exam.

“We hope to use the momentum gained from this Pacesetter award, which has come on the heels of our All-America City Hall of Fame award, to do even more to support all of our children,” said Mayor Sherman Lea. “As this designation shows, we’ve made progress, but we cannot rest until 100% of our children are strong readers. We must continue to mobilize the City of Roanoke community around supporting the factors that impact early school success, including school readiness, health, nutrition, school attendance, summer learning, and access to books and other needed resources.”

Each year, CGLR uses Pacesetter Honors to highlight communities that are making measurable progress on key indicators of early school success. This year’s 32 Pacesetter communities represent the “leading edge” of innovation, impact and improvement within the GLR Network, which is currently comprised of more than 300 communities. Roanoke’s CGLR initiative, Star City Reads, is led by the Roanoke Public Libraries. The Star City Reads coalition consists of 32 partners, including Feeding America Southwest Virginia, the City’s Department of Human/Social Services, the Roanoke City Public Schools, the Roanoke Refugee Partnership, Turn the Page, and other organizations.

“Roanoke is proud to receive Pacesetter Honors for the fifth consecutive year. This award recognizes our continued success in working together to improve children’s early outcomes in a meaningful way,” said Sheila S. Umberger, Director of the Roanoke Public Libraries. According to information from Dr. Rita Bishop, Superintendent of Roanoke City Public Schools, the City has passed the state’s average reading proficiency rate, and its low-income students are on track to surpass the state average in the near future.

Reading proficiency by the end of third grade is a critical milestone that marks the transition from learning to read to using reading to learn. Students who have not mastered reading are more likely to drop out of high school and experience higher levels of unemployment, incarceration, and health issues. The Star City Reads coalition hopes that today’s strong readers will be tomorrow’s community leaders.

Launched in 2010, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a national effort to ensure that more children from low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career, and active citizenship. Since its launch, the GLR Campaign has grown to include more than 360 communities, representing 43 states. To learn more, visit

In 2012, the City of Roanoke won its sixth All-America City Award for its plan for the Star City Reads initiative. In 2017, Roanoke won a seventh All-America City Award for its progress. In 2019, Roanoke won the first-ever All-America City Hall of Fame award. To learn more about Star City Reads, including how to help, visit or find them on Facebook at

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