RED WING – The local American Association of University Women branch hand sewed 180 literacy bags to support third-graders as they prepared for their first MCA tests. Bags were delivered April 8 before testing occurred this week.

“A couple of us from the branch came up with the idea to give students and parents a bag filled with goodies to show community support,” Janet Brandt, AAUW member and project creator, said. “We know testing can be hard and scary for third-graders. We wanted to make the experience better.”

AAUW began in 1881 and for the past 140 years “has become the leading voice in advancing gender equity in education and workplaces,” according to its website.

Several months ago, Red Wing members noticed that MCA reading scores had declined and they wanted to help.

In 2021, 44% of students taking the reading exam scored at an “exceeds standards” or “meets standards” level. In 2019, the result was 55%, which shows a 11% point decrease. Statewide scores had a 6% point drop.

“The branch's goal was to help create some excitement, fun and engagement around the test and to encourage students to feel positive and value their own abilities,” Brandt said.

Brandt and fellow member Carmen Bertelson came up with the idea for literacy bags and asked around the community for additional help.

AAUW members Mary Ellen Halvorson, Barb Hanson, Marg Henke and friend of the branch Jane Ward agreed to hand sew bags for a special touch.

“We collaborated with the school district, public library, and United Way of Goodhue, Wabasha and Pierce Counties on this project to fill the bags,” Brandt said. “We were awarded a grant from the state AAUW organization to fund the project.”

In the end, 180 bags were filled with a note to parents, crayons, coloring sheets, bookmarks, little toys, fruit snacks and a short story with an accompanying test.

Bags were donated to all Red Wing Public School Grade 3 classrooms last week.

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