Bright Spots are written and produced by the Campaign to showcase the work in Grade-Level Reading communities to make progress on school readiness, school attendance and summer learning by 2016. Continue reading below or download a PDF version.
When New York City’s grade-level reading campaign launched the Once Upon a Summer program to reduce young children’s summer learning loss, it zeroed in on the Mott Haven neighborhood in the South Bronx, the nation’s poorest congressional district.
“In Mott Haven, only 1 out of 10 children read at grade level by the end of third grade. It’s alarming. It’s urgent,” says Sheena Wright, president and CEO of United Way of New York City, which leads ReadNYC, a GLR campaign begun in 2013.
“Once Upon a Summer is one critical piece of ReadNYC and provides quality opportunities for summer and extended learning, the results of which have been substantial.”
ReadNYC will target 10 of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, working with principals and community leaders to build relationships and an agenda. Each neighborhood will develop a plan addressing five areas — including the particularly acute summer learning loss experienced by disadvantaged students that slows their progress toward reading proficiency.
The summer program — which provided early literacy tutoring to 94 children who completed kindergarten through second grade by summer 2014 — “was the first action around our collective impact work,” says Marielys Divanne, ReadNYC senior director. “We listened and responded to the community desire for a collaborative effort.”
Mott Haven partners include the United Way, which funded the pilot program; five public schools; Read Alliance, a New York early literacy group; and East Side House Settlement, a community-based organization.Results from an evaluation, based on pre- and post-program tests of the 85 students who completed the program found that:
- 98 percent (83 students) improved their reading score on a test gauging fluency not comprehension.
- Of those 83 students, 51 percent improved by one academic year or more.
- 34 percent of the 85 students completing the program read at or above grade level when the program ended. All read below grade level at the program's start.
- The 67 students who attended 30 or more of the 40 literacy tutoring sessions increased their reading level, on average, by 9 months. Comparable figures for the 18 students attending fewer than 30 sessions was 7 months and for the 9 students who didn’t complete the program, 2 months.
- Both the 26 English Language Learners (ELLs) and 59 non-ELLs improved their score, on average, by an academic year
To start the program, school principals identified students most in need of summer literacy intervention and six teachers to serve as paid staff overseeing one-on-one tutoring provided by 53 teenagers — 33 from Mott Haven — employed and trained by Read Alliance. “It creates this whole circle of community, with older students relating to the younger students,” says Divanne.
Of 22 tutors who completed a survey, 68 percent said that after being a tutor, they were more likely to want to go to college; 77 percent said tutoring was their first paid job; 55 percent said they saved their tutoring paycheck; 36 percent said they used the money to pay for school; and 23 percent said they contributed their earnings to their family’s income.
East Side House provided staff to oversee the program’s afternoon camp-like component as well as workshops for families offering hands-on strategies to build literacy at home and support to 31 families with children transitioning from East Side House’s child care program to kindergarten in the five targeted schools.
Lessons learned along the way include the importance of building relationships with parents — especially those with young children. “Many parents were hesitant to have them be part of a full-day program but by the end of the summer, they were very pleased,” says Divanne.
Getting an earlier start in planning and recruiting students for next summer’s program also was a key lesson. Last summer, recruiting couldn’t begin until May, when some families had plans.
Overall, the program “was extremely well-received,” says Divanne. “We seek to both reach more children in subsequent years and test other collaborative efforts with more community partners."
For more information, contact Marielys Divanne at 212-251-2494 or MDivanne@uwnyc.org. Photos: ReadNYC; Production Date: Fall 2014.
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Does your community have a summer learning program? If so, share your experience in the comments box!
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