Louisville, KY

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Grade Level Reading Louisville

Louisville, Kentucky

Building our reputation as a city of lifelong learners is one of Mayor Greg Fischer’s main goals for Louisville. To that end, Louisville Metro Government, Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) and Metro United Way (MUW) have engaged in work all along the education pipeline so that our children are:

  • Ready for School – More children enter kindergarten ready to learn.

  • Successful in School – More youth graduate from high school ready for college and careers.

  • Prepared to Succeed – More youth enter college (postsecondary education) and complete certificates or degrees.

Our award-winning plan for Grade Level Reading Louisville builds on Every 1 Reads, a highly successful initiative to improve reading scores in the public schools. In September, Mayor Fischer and Superintendent Donna Hargens put out the call for 1,500 more volunteers to work one-on-one with students who are “on the cusp” – needing the boost that a trained volunteer can provide to help them make the move from the “novice” to “apprentice” reading category, or from the apprentice to “proficient” category. Every 1 Reads has rallied more than 70 community- and faith-based organizations (including out-of-school time [OST] and child care) to provide tutoring and assistance to students. Over the past year, 1,000 students in 84 schools/sites participated with 925 volunteer tutor/mentors. Ideally, tutors work with children in OST sites, because the tutoring sessions do not disrupt the child’s instruction with certified teachers at school. 

A first for Kentucky, this year within the first few weeks of school, every Kentucky kindergartener will be screened for school readiness using the Brigance Kindergarten Screener. Last fall, during the pilot phase, 99% of JCPS’ 7,700 incoming kindergarteners were screened; only 35% were fully ready. The screener provides valuable information to help: teachers and schools target the best ways to meet the needs of each child in the classroom; families to work with their children; and child care providers and preschools know what they need to do to prepare their students for success. During the past year, in order to better prepare its students, JCPS has worked with MUW, the city and other partners to:

  • Provide a new School Readiness Visual (with specific readiness skills and goals); it has been reviewed with all instructional staff and now partners are helping undertake distribution throughout the broader community.

  • Improve on Early Childhood Curriculum Maps (aligned to Common Core State Standards for kindergarten) and provide professional development to support consistent implementation.

  • Educate parents on the importance of Early Childhood Education and regular attendance.

  • Provide professional development for teachers and childcare providers on the use of CLASS, ECERS, ITERS and other monitoring tools; MUW similarly has worked with its child care providers to improve quality through the Early Childhood Excellence Academy.

In the coming year using information provided by the Brigance measurement tool, JCPS also can strategically focus on where children who are not ready are coming from and work with community partners like the city, MUW and Community Coordinated Child Care to target child care centers and neighborhoods where early learning is lacking.

Since the program’s inception in 2009, MUW has distributed nearly 6,200 Ages and Stages Questionnaires (ASQ) through its network of public and non-profit organizations – and its team of neighborhood leaders and parent advocates who work in six low-income neighborhoods. ASQ is a developmental and social-emotional screening tool, administered at regular intervals to children ages one month to five years, which empowers and engages parents to understand how their children are progressing developmentally. Parents observe and work with their child, then fill out the ASQ and return it to MUW. Soon they receive, through the mail, an assessment of the child’s strengths and areas needing reinforcement, tip sheets and a book for the child.

Through Kindergarten Countdown, the city, MUW, JCPS, parochial schools, and other community partners hosted summer events for in-coming kindergarteners, capped off in August with the Mayor’s Kindergarten Countdown Fair at Slugger Field. Beginning in June, library branches handed out 2,272 free “I’m going to Kindergarten” t-shirts and books (provided by PNC Grow Up Great), as well as JCPS’ School Readiness Visual and a list of free, fun and cultural events and experiences geared toward these children and their families. Event sponsors hosted a record 1,600 kindergarteners and nearly 2,000 adults. Event sponsors included: YMCA Louisville, Kentucky Science Center, Louisville Zoo, Kentucky Derby Museum, Louisville Slugger Field/Louisville Bats Baseball, Stage One Family Theatre and Walden Theatre. This year, Kentucky Educational Television (KET-TV) staff demonstrated the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s new on-line learning games and tools (and loaded apps onto smart devices) at every event. Also new, thanks to funding from PNC, StageOne presented its Storytellers program at every JCPS Head Start and pre-K location. Their teaching artists visited 84 sites – totaling 5,000 students – in just nine days. The special one-hour session included lessons about colors, shapes and numbers, and students were given 4-page readiness guides to take home to their families.

JCPS schools use one of two predictive tools – SmartEd or Kentucky’s Infinite Campus – to alert staff to student problems and issues. In order to work with students showing signs of chronic absence, JCPS and MUW partner on an AmeriCorps project to provide early interventions for at-risk students who are showing signs of chronic absenteeism. The Ready to Extend A Caring Hand (REACH) Corps provide 17 full-time AmeriCorps Members, eight of whom mentor students in the eight elementary schools showing the greatest number of persistently-absent students. Each Member serves as a one-on-one mentor, working with 20 targeted students who had 7 to 15 unexcused absences in the previous year.

Because poor attendance is often a symptom of other problems within a family, JCPS just launched “Louisville Linked”, an online resource for counselors, teachers and other school staff to find individualized resources for children and families. In “level 1” school staff members utilize the 211 system to find services. When the appropriate resources are not found, the system generates a “level 2” call to action among Louisville Linked partners – businesses, faith- and community-based organizations, health care providers and others who want to help. Since school began in late August, Louisville Linked partnerships have met the needs of 5,839 students, 40% of whom had multiple areas of need. The needs vary: 40% are requests for basic needs, 29% for academic interventions, 25% for physical, mental or emotional needs, and the remainder are requests for help with social skills to foster resiliency.

For the second year, the city and Metro United Way awarded over $70,000 in mini-grants (up to $5,000 per organization) to help local non-profits prevent summer learning loss. The 15 agencies receiving grants served 804 students (320 were 4 – 8 years old), all from economically-struggling areas of town. In addition, UPS and the CE&S Foundation helped fund a pilot program for 278 children at Boys and Girls Club Parkland and Neighborhood House that used certified teachers and community volunteers to not only prevent summer learning loss, but also to help children make up lost ground and forge ahead in reading. MUW recruited 77 volunteers to assist with the program, and 55 of those expressed interest in serving again next summer.

All the summer sites incorporated the use of two on-line learning tools – SuccessMaker and Study Island – to further participants’ reading skills. Throughout the school year, these and other sites – a total of 42 out-of-school-time providers that have been designated as JCPS Learning Places – encourage the students they serve to spend just 20 minutes per day using these tools. To boost this usage, Louisville Central Community Center launched the “e-leaning Olympics” this past summer. Over the summer, 268 youngsters enrolled in the e-learning program and 146 of those engaged in the “Olympic” competition. Together they logged 661 hours of reading enrichment on SuccessMaker, and 114 hours of remediation in reading and 111 hours of remediation in math on Study Island.

While the electronic tools are popular, nothing is as popular as the Louisville Free Public Library’s Summer Reading program at all 18 branches. This year, 24,262 children (birth through 12th grade) completed the program. With almost twice as many enrolling as completing, that means nearly 50,000 children visited the libraries and took out books as part of summer reading!

The Grade Level Reading Louisville team is already anticipating that 2013-14 will be even better. In June 2013, JCPS was one of four districts in the state to receive District of Innovation status from the Kentucky School Board (KSB). The KSB voted to approve JCPS’s status for five years, which gives the district the opportunity to rethink what a school might look like and the ability to use nontraditional approaches to curriculum, instruction, assessment, and governance. This as a tremendous opportunity to expand learning opportunities for students through the use of technology, reconfigured schools, expanding and/or reconfiguring the school day and using nontraditional methods of teaching and learning. The Grade Level Reading Louisville partners are ready to help the district “reimagine” what that could look like – and how it could help the city’s youngest children improve their prospects for reading successfully.

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  • A lot going on in Louisville - particularly curious about Louisville Linked effort, the Brigance Kindergarten screener, and the online-learning tools. Thanks for sharing!

    - Betsy Rubiner, the GLR Campaign's community manager

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