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March 2013. Help Me to Become a Better Reader. Measuring Impacts of One After S chool Literacy Program. Jennifer Jones, Virginia Commonwealth University. Executive Summary. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


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Measuring Impacts of One AfterSchool Literacy ProgramHelp Me to Become a Better Reader

March 2013

Jennifer Jones, Virginia Commonwealth UniversityIn Sunshine County, parental demand for after-school child care, academic accountability policy changes, and research linking lack of adult supervision after-school with risk-taking behaviors, drives both private and public funding sources for after-school programs.

In 2002, the citizens of Sunshine County, Virginia experienced high crime rates during the hours right after school while parents were working and many students were left at home unsupervised.

As a result of community complaints, the Sunshine County Police Department partnered with other civic organizations to pinpoint areas in need of improvement. The task force identified several high crime neighborhoods where children were left unsupervised at home during after school hours.

The task force uncovered the need for high quality after school programs to assist the families and teens with literacy development as well as reduce neighborhood crimes. Grant funds were secured to develop an after school program which would come to be known as Brain Builders.On any given day, There areapproximately eight million unsupervised children between the ages of 5 and 14 during after-school hours.1 Executive SummaryThe Call to Action

Brain Builders is a school-year long (August through June) after school program designed to bolster intellectual achievement and provide marginalized students with the tools they need to succeed in life.

The Brain Builders program is currently functional in three public schools in Sunshine County Every Kid Counts Middle School, Kids R Us Elementary School, andWonderful World Elementary School. In 2012,85 students in grades K-8 participated in the after school program. This year, 50 students are scheduled to participate.

The Brain Builders After School Program operates every week on Tuesdays and Thursdays between the hours of 3:30 and 5:30 P.M. The program is housed at Every Kid Counts Middle School. Activities take place in a variety of settings to include: a classroom, a computer lab, a gymnasium and weather permitting, outdoor fields.

Executive SummaryBrain Builders ProgramAt this particular center, 12 students attend regularly. The majority of the students have participated for longer than one school year. The program includes academic skills improvement, character development, and community service opportunities for the youth and the families it serves.

This program has existed since 2002 and has recently seen budget cuts which have prevented program expansion.

The economically disadvantaged students attending Every Kid Counts Middle School are struggling to perform in reading on state standardized assessments. The longitudinal data collected from the state database suggests that there has been a steady decline in performance for this subpopulation of students. Thus, this program was designed to reach this subpopulation and provide these much needed services. The purpose of this study is to measure whether the Brain Builders After-school program in Sunshine County is having any measurable positive outcome on the literacy level of the students it services at Every Kid Counts Middle School.

Research QuestionsHow are students selected for participation in this program? Who decides?What does the attendance/participation rate look like long term?How closely do the volunteers from Brain Builders work with academic content teachers to plan?Which strategies do the Brain Builders Program employ to build character; develop educational goals; and provide community outreach services?

The purpose of this evaluation is to measure the literacy effects, if any, that the brain builders program has on the youth it serves.Jenn JonesExecutive SummaryMeasuring Programmatic Outcomes on Literacy

The Evaluator approached the topic via a constructivists lens. It was necessary to speak to the program participants to allow them to tell the story. Thus, the evaluator planned several interviews, followed up by informal open-ended surveys and observed the daily events in real time at the Brain Builders Center.

The evaluator had to obtain permission to interview participants. A letter was sent home with each of the 12 students and three were returned granting permission for the evaluation.

ObservationsThe three students were followed closely for approximately three months (0ver 15 visits). The evaluator was observing sessions to see how participants interacted with others, responded to academic literacy lessons, and how they incorporated the skills into practice.Executive SummaryEvaluation Methods InterviewsThe evaluator interviewed the three students, the program director, two academic literacy teachers, and the assistant principal. Questions were formulated in advance but the actual interviews were iterative in nature to allow for free conversation regarding the program.

SurveysFollow-up survey that were open-ended in nature were sent out to all interviewees a few weeks after the initial interview to build validity since the sole evaluator had no other researcher reviewing data for comparison.

ArtifactsThe evaluator used program artifacts such as new articles, pictures and newsletters to strengthen collected data. The pictures were priceless in providing rich details regarding the programs community outreach efforts.Reading Comprehension WeaknessesI found that reading comprehension posed a problem for all three students that participated in the evaluation. Most of them were receiving some type of reading comprehension strategies intervention whether it be through Brain Builders, in class, or through some other in-school program. The students reported that they just read and answered questions in their English/Language Arts courses. The students reported that they enjoyed math much more than reading because they felt that they were better at math than reading. Each of the students knew their own strengths and weaknesses as they pertained to literacy development.

Lack of Programmatic PlanningI found that while the Brain Builders Staff expressed that they planned well and often with the staff at the school, one of the teachers interviewed and the Assistant Principal felt otherwise. Both ladies indicated a need to plan together for the children.

Participant SelectionThe evaluator inquired about how students are selected for participation in the Brain Builders Program. I asked the program director and he explained that, students are selected based on three criteria; 1. They have to qualify for free or reduced lunch, 2. They have to live in communities identified in the original grant conducted by the Sunshine County Police Department and 3. They have to want to be here. The Assistant Principal explained that there is a long waiting list to get into the program and that students who misbehave are not permitted to attend the program. When asked who recommends students for participation, the director responded, It is a team approach involving myself, the assistant principal, parents and the teachers.

Executive SummaryEvaluation Findings

Actively Pursue FundingSources

Funding sources for after school initiatives are waning. This program was born out of a call for action from community members to reduce crimes taking place as a result of unsupervised teens during after work and school hours. I would suggest that the same agencies continue to work together and communicate to garner support for raising the necessary funds to sustain this valuable program.

It is my hope that my evaluation will provoke further discussions regarding literacy development and how to meet the needs of those teens struggling by hearing their voices. Others should feel welcomed to use my profiles from this evaluation as a vehicle to provoke conversations regarding how to meet struggling teens literacy needs and development.

Extended Time forProfessional Learning & Planning

Research has suggested that literacy development at the middle and high school levels is impeded by structural barriers such as lack of effective skills training to meet learners needs.

I would like to add that in order to expand literacy instruction for all learners, we need to be partnering with teachers, administrators and community members alike to raise awareness and garner support for literacy programs. The staff at Brain Builders and at Every Kid Counts Middle need to plan together to strategically eradicate illiteracy for these studentsExecutive SummaryRecommendations for Improvement

After extensive review of the findings, the evaluator recommends:About the Author:

I came to this evaluation project with great interest. Having grown up in the inner city of Baltimore with the label of free and reduced lunch and attending many after school programs in my youth, I knew that reading was my salvation and could elevate me to achieve more; therefore my interest in literacy and its importance has never escaped me.

It became my lifelong endeavor to educate others and share with them my love of learning and reading. I am a certified teacher and administrator with over 15 years of experience in PK-12 education. I believe that my training and experiences in working with the diverse students I have served has provided the strength and fortitude to conduct this study.

1 National Institute on Out-of-School Time. (2003). Fact Sheet on school-age childrens out of school time. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley College, Center for Research on Women.