The primary goal of the After School and Summer Program’s is to help children improve their reading ability and get them at or above grade-level, as many of the students in the Kansas City School District are below grade level. We use certified classroom teachers to deliver the Accelerated Reader program for literacy instruction. The program is provided to K – 8th graders at no cost to the families. Youth counselors and volunteer tutors provide individualized instruction.
We have a laser-beam focus on reading improvement. Ask any of our students and they will tell you that our curriculum consists of reading, reading, and more reading. Ask any of our students if their reading has improved and they will tell you YES. The reason our program has grown so fast is because our children are reading so well and the parents know this. In the early years, parents knew of our success, the community didn’t. So in 2007, armed with a $40,000 grant from the Hall Family Foundation, we had Johns Hopkins University send in a team of Ph.D.’s to evaluate our reading program. The evaluation showed that in the eight weeks the students were with us the average student gained one full academic year in reading! That result made us one of the top summer reading programs in the country. (Johns Hopkins Evaluation – Executive Summary )
ACCELERATED READER – A TUTOR FRIENDLY SYSTEM
To manage our reading program, we use a computerized system called “Accelerated Reader”. This administrative tool helps us track the reading progress of each and every student. The data the system generates allows our teachers to make key judgments as to how to guide a student to reading success. As important as this tool is to our teaching staff, it is even more important to our volunteer tutors.
All of our students are pre-tested when they enter our program to determine their equivalent reading grade level. So each student receives a starting grade level such as 3.1, which would indicate third grade first month. This score establishes a base for an individual student from which all progress will be determined.
The student knows what book level they are reading on, as does the teacher, but more importantly so does the tutor. The tutor knows the corresponding grade level of the child he or she is working with thus they are assured that the book they read together is appropriate for that child.
At each site, we have a library with books that are color-coded by grade level, and broken down in monthly increments, e.g. 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, etc. If a student is reading on a 3.1 level, the tutor goes to the 3.1 section and selects a book with the student.
When the tutor and student have completed reading the book, the student takes a quiz on the computer to see if what was read was comprehended. The score is received immediately so both the student and the teacher get to see how they did with that book. If successful on the quiz, the student feels good, but equally important so does the tutor.
The system tracks every book that is read by a student including the grade level and the quiz score. This is how progress is tracked. If a student is getting 90% on the quizzes, then the grade level of the books to be read will be moved up.
At the end of the program, the student is assessed once again to determine their reading grade level. The difference between the pre-test and post-test scores measures the number of months of reading progress.
The bigger the better!
Our model will take students to our sites after school using our own buses and locations. We will provide reading with tutors, homework help, dinner, and all of it is free to the parents. The program is Monday – Friday until 6:00. We also have the data to show the students improvement, using our reports from Accelerated Reader. Therefore, we will have the children all school year, and then we will recruit them to join in our summer program. By working with the same children year round, we improve the students within the neighborhood elementary school. Improving the neighborhood school will also improve the neighborhood, becoming a neighborhood of choice for the community.
The majority of our students live in low income households with single parent families. Over 80% of our students receive free or reduced lunches. Many of our parents have lost hope in an educational system that failed them as children. Turnover in school district leadership and parental struggles at home remain problematic. We overcome these barriers and keep our children on an education track for success. First, we provide supplementary education to get students back on reading level. Second, we create caring relationships that motivate through tutoring. Third, we occupy our student’s non-school time through participation in fun, educational activities. Finally, we become the family’s day care provider within the neighborhood at no cost.
Each of our site locations are in the neighborhood of the children it serves. We provide our own buses to pick the children up from school and bring them to our sites (located within a few miles of the school). The parents are then responsible for picking up their child by 6:00 pm.
Transportation for all activities within the program is provided by our buses. By creating a neighborhood program for each school, the parents are relieved of the pressure of transporting children to several locations. Also, we allow children from K – 8th grade to come to a single site, so those who have several children have a single stop. Our program is open to all students, regardless of family income. Our students are not required to pass a reading level. We employ teachers who speak multiple languages to work with parents that do not speak English as a first language. We try our best to accommodate all of our applicants. We do not turn any students away until our capacity has been met.