Ralph Smith

Throughout his distinguished career, Ralph Smith has been a leader who brings together unusual allies. Ralph is the managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a national network of communities focused on ensuring children read on grade level by the end of third grade. He has also worked at the Philadelphia School District as chief of staff and special counsel, at the University of Pennsylvania as a law professor, and at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. He is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University and UCLA School of Law.

What is the greatest challenge our educators face?

Despite considerable evidence to the contrary, many of us continue to act as though schools alone can remove the adversity propelled obstacles confronting children from low-income families. That is simply fantasy.

When and where were you learning at your best?

We learn best when we meet folks where they are literally, in their communities, listen to their hopes and fears, encourage them to weigh in on what we promote as lessons learned and next steps.

What do you consider your organization's greatest achievement?

Building upon the shared belief that young children should learn to read, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has made enormous progress in translating that consensus into a movement with broad implications for disrupting generational poverty.

If you could change one thing about public education, what would it be?

The current school-centric approach would be displaced by one in which public schools are just one of the institutions perceiving themselves, as well as being perceived by others, as jointly accountable for fostering student success as children move from birth to adulthood.

Which living person do you most admire?

Pope Francis

Who are your favorite writers?

Elizabeth George and August Wilson

What is your most treasured possession?

What I treasure most--moments of solitude and silent reflection, moments of fellowship and celebration--are not literally things I "possess."

What is your most marked characteristic?

Strong belief in the power and value of relationship

Favorite motto or quote?

"Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

What were you really into when you were a kid?

Touring the world and exploring the universe as a voracious reader

Learn more about The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading