At Neighborhood Focus, one important piece of our mission is to help guide students academically, providing support where families may be unable to do so. With many of our students speaking English as a second language, our after school and summer learning help becomes even more critical, as we work to help students reach important milestones in school.
But as with any quality student enrichment program, the effort is only as good as the progress being demonstrated. Our mission is to “Build Hope, One Life a Time.” We make a point to monitor each student’s performance in school, as well as review their progress in our tutoring program, to see where we need to adjust, or search for additional interventions to help the child succeed.
In the fall and in the spring, we administer two reading benchmark assessments, including the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT), which tests word recognition; and the Criterion Test for Reading Placement (CTRP), which tests reading placement level.
We administered the reading benchmark assessments with 18 elementary students in our LAUNCH program, and ten middle and high school students in our ACCELERATE program. At the outset, ten of the elementary students, and four of the middle and high school students were reading below grade level.
While we were able to measure reading progress in a majority of the participating students, many still assessed below grade level when reviewed again in the spring. We attribute some of that stalled progress to lack of consistency in attending after school each day. We know from studies that students who are “high attenders” of quality out of school time programs are more likely to demonstrate measurable academic gains in school.
We also used qualitative measurement to help determine how students learn best. For example, we saw some students perform better working one-on-one with an academic tutor, as opposed to having other students working in the room. To accommodate some of our more visual learners, we implemented word flash card practice to improve fluency.
Despite the lack of attendance holding back some students, other students demonstrated truly amazing progress. One elementary age boy, who spoke very little English at the beginning of the school year, attended our after school program 95% of the time. With consistent work alongside a tutor using Word List binders, he made wonderful improvement. By December, he was reading independently, and by the end of the school year he had progressed an incredible four grade levels! His success story is just a single example of many of our students who showed one, two or more grade level reading gains after working alongside our dedicated tutors and volunteers.
As we head towards the 2019-2020 school year, we are already mapping out some goals for this part of our program, including:
Establishing more benchmarks for reading, including fluency, comprehension, word recognition, building vocabulary, understanding context, reasoning, memory and attention.
Increase progress levels and student achievement.
Improve student attendance, especially with the older students.
Recruit more tutoring volunteers, and possibly a substitute volunteers list.
We can build hope one life a time, but we can’t do it without you! Please prayerfully consider serving as a reading tutor for our students. There is nothing more gratifying than seeing a child learn how to read right before your eyes! You can make a difference at Neighborhood Focus.