Montgomery County/Dayton Receives All-America City Award

Montgomery County | Dayton, Ohio received the prestigious All-America City Award for its civic engagement to help more young children from low-income families achieve grade-level reading proficiency and early school success. Montgomery County | Dayton, Ohio was one of just 15 communities nationwide to receive the award from the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and the National Civic League, which created the program 67 years ago, during Grade-Level Reading Week in Denver, Colorado at the All-America City Awards.

“Our entire community shares in this honor, as the All-America City Award recognizes the collaboration of so many organizations, educators, parents and volunteers working together to help all our young children learn the skills needed for success in school, regardless of their families’ income status,” said Montgomery County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman, executive committee member of Learn to Earn Dayton.

To select the 15 awardees, a panel of judges examined the self-assessments from the 27 communities that were nominated as finalists. Community Self-Assessments are a rigorous process designed to help communities reflect on what’s working and prepare for the next phase of learning and action.

The 2017 All America City Award winners are communities that:

  • Demonstrated they have moved the needle on outcomes for children from low-income families in at least two of the following community solutions areas: school readiness, school attendance, summer learning and/or grade-level reading.
  • Addressed the National Civic League’s key process criteria of civic engagement, cross-sector collaboration and inclusiveness.
  • Created a plan for sustainability and for aligning, linking, stacking and bundling proven and the most promising programs, practices, and strategies.

A three-time All-America City Award winner, Dayton is cited for measurable progress in school attendance and summer learning, as well as for exemplary efforts in promoting civic engagement and inclusiveness. Led initially by Montgomery County, the community has been intensely focused on improving student success starting in preschool. In 2013, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley created the City of Learners Committee to advance this and other goals.

Composed of over 70 representatives, the committee hosted listening sessions to gain feedback on fostering a strong education culture. The local GLR coalition’s implementation partnerships include the county’s 16 school districts, the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority, the Junior League of Dayton and the Dayton Metro Library system. The campaign has recently engaged parents through focus groups, data walks and family representation on the Preschool Promise board.

The coalition’s focus and County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley’s commitment to making early childhood education a priority resulted in the passage of an increase in the city’s income tax to fund universal preschool for all Dayton 4-year-olds (as well as ensure the city’s ongoing financial stability). Strongly supported by the mayor, the levy funds the Preschool Promise for eight years, with $4.3 million in annual support. Dayton has seen reductions in chronic absence among low-income children in four of its partner school districts, with the highest chronic absence rate among the four at 20 percent in 2012–13. In that same district in 2015–16, the rate had been cut to 14.7 percent. To promote summer learning, two high-poverty school districts partnered with the BELL summer learning program in 2016; their students gained an average of two months in reading proficiency.

The Preschool Promise is designed to ensure that all children can attend an affordable, Star Rated Preschool for at least one year. The goal is to help every child start school fully ready to learn.  While the hope is that the Preschool Promise ultimately will be offered throughout Montgomery County, it currently is available only in Dayton and Kettering.

All families who live in Montgomery County and have a child who will be 4 years old by September 30, 2017, are eligible to apply. They must choose a Dayton or Kettering Star Rated Preschool that is participating in the Preschool Promise.  To learn more, visit

Reading proficiency by the end of third grade is a critical milestone toward high school graduation and career success, because it marks the transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” National tests show that two-thirds of U.S. fourth graders (four-fifths of students from low-income families) are not reading proficiently. Students who have not mastered reading by that time are more likely to drop out of high school and struggle throughout their lives. 

To learn more about the AAC Award criteria and to view profiles for each AAC Award recipient, visit

About the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

Launched in 2010, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a collaborative effort of funders, nonprofit partners, business leaders, public officials, government agencies, states and communities across the nation to ensure that many 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 300 communities, representing 42 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, with more than 3,800 local organizations and 250 state and local funders (including 168 United Ways). To learn more, visit and follow the movement on Twitter @readingby3rd.

About the National Civic League

For more than 120 years, the National Civic League has worked to advance good governance and civic engagement to create inclusive, thriving communities. We achieve this by inspiring, supporting and recognizing equitable approaches to community decision-making. Through its signature effort, the All-America City Award and its work on racial healing, sustainability, health equity and fiscal sustainability, NCL supports cities to create a better, more equitable and inclusive future.