Local Efforts Support At-Risk Male Students in the Rochester Community
New Partnership Receives Funding to Create 21st Century Community Learning Center in Northeast Area
Community leaders and researchers point to measures, like quality summer and afterschool programs and community engagement, that play a significant part in improving children’s academic success and likelihood of staying in school. A new partnership between North East Area Development, Inc. (NEAD), John James Audubon School 33, and the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education is putting that theory to the test.
NEAD, in partnership with School 33 and the Warner School, recently won New York State Department of Education funding to create and manage a new 21st Century Community Learning Center in Rochester that will keep the most at-risk children—African-American and Latino male students in the city’s Beechwood neighborhood—engaged, motivated, and enrolled in school. The award, totaling $945,000, will enable partners to offer new and expand existing wrap-around services over a three year period and will be administered by a new cohesive program called Literacy Engagement and Achievement Program, also known as Project LEAP. NEAD was the only community organization locally to receive a 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) grant.
Project activities will include a new afterschool program that meets twice a week; an individualized literacy instruction program for kindergarten through third-grade students who need it most; monthly STEM Family Saturdays that engage family members in math, science, and technology learning activities; mentoring and outreach activities for youth and family members; and two existing summer programs, led by Rochester’s Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom School and the Warner School of Education, currently serving students in School 33.
“We are pleased to be given the opportunity to partner with NEAD and School 33 in this capacity,” says Dean Raffaella Borasi of the Warner School. “We look forward to working with our partners in achieving our mutual goal, which is to provide students and their families in the Rochester community with a solid structure and support system as they move through school.”
Research shows that African-American and Latino boys are most at-risk of dropping out of school. Rochester is home to the lowest graduation rate for African-American and Latino male students in the entire country. In 2010, only 9 percent of African-American males and 10 percent of Latino males graduated from high school.
The ultimate goal at School 33 is to increase student achievement that leads to increased graduation rates. Although students are at school for more than six hours a day, school administrators recognize that more support needs to be provided to students, especially African-American and Latino male students. School 33 Principal Larry Ellison says that the staff at School 33 is working hard to change this trajectory.
“We recognize that to change this nationwide trend, we need additional support for our students,” Ellison says. “The mission of the staff at School 33 is to educate all students to their highest levels of performance, in effectively managed learning environments that are safe, productive, inclusive and student-centered and in collaboration with families and community partners. Our partnership between NEAD and the Warner School is expected to provide the support that we are seeking in improving the academic successes of our students, and we are very excited about the forthcoming opportunities that Project LEAP will bring to our at-risk male population.”
George Moses, executive director of NEAD, the active neighborhood association where School 33 is located, says that this neighborhood place-based strategy is a very targeted approach to reach a very vulnerable population.
“As we talk about the holistic child, there is an academic piece in school and an academic piece out of school,” says Moses, who will lead this effort. “Few actually take into account informal learning outside of the classroom, but Project LEAP does. It’s an authentic partnership, with a very balanced approach, that will maximize what each partner does well.”
Under NEAD’s leadership, Project LEAP will design, deliver, and evaluate about 200 hours of high-quality, expanded learning opportunities outside of the traditional school day each year to 210 students in School 33 who face challenges in achieving academic standards. Additionally, more than half of these students will also attend the Horizons at Warner and Freedom School summer enrichment programs for an additional 180 hours of summer programming.
Horizons at Warner, an affiliate of the national non-profit called Horizons National, was established in 2010. The six-week summer enrichment program engages low-income kindergartners through eighth-graders from Rochester public schools in meaningful and authentic learning experiences. Led by Professor and Executive Director Lynn Gatto, Horizons at Warner was the first Horizons Affiliate to be housed on a college campus and is expected to reach 135 students each summer by 2014. In addition, NEAD runs the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom School program, which serves a total of 125 Rochester City School District kindergarten through twelfth-grade students each summer.
Project LEAP capitalizes on a partnership with a number of complementary strengths and expertise. NEAD brings expertise in community economic development, family and community outreach, as well as in community educational services through its CDF Freedom School in Rochester. With expertise in pedagogy and teaching, members from the Warner School will design the program, lead the STEM Family Saturday programs, and evaluate the overall project. Professor Carol St. George, a veteran teacher who now directs the literacy teacher education program at Warner, will develop the literacy component of the afterschool sessions. For the past two years, St. George has run an initiative, called Project READ, that aims to build and strengthen children’s literacy skills at Henry W. Longfellow School 36.
“Project LEAP will have an immediate impact on the community by articulating and demonstrating the community’s role in education and helping to educate children,” adds Moses. “We talk about it, but never see how it looks. This project will model how that looks through a unique partnership with the University and city school.”
Project LEAP is funded through the federal 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) Program. The new local partnership is one of 25 award recipients selected in New York State from more than 458 proposals through an extensive peer review process, with priority given to programs that serve students and their families at high-poverty, low-performing schools. The 21st CCLC Program is authorized under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
About the Warner School of Education
Founded in 1958, the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education offers master’s and doctoral degree programs in teaching and curriculum, school leadership, higher education, educational policy, counseling, human development, and health professions education. The Warner School of Education offers a new accelerated option for its EdD programs that allows eligible students to earn a doctorate in education in as few as three years part time while holding a professional job in the same field. The Warner School of Education is recognized both regionally and nationally for its tradition of preparing practitioners and researchers to become leaders and agents of change in schools, universities, and community agencies; generating and disseminating research; and actively participating in education reform.
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