Never let it be said you didn’t do the least that could be done

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There was a small element of surprise when a recent lunch and learn regarding four Early Education Tutoring (part of the OPPORTUNITY Task Force) reading programs moved as smoothly and enlightened so well. Twenty-six potential volunteers attended (only one other guy), but the feeling of helpfulness and purpose regarding a necessary grass roots effort permeated the room.

The surprise at finding the right type situation– on my fourth attempt at volunteering to help with reading programs– was gratifying and easy to schedule. The Freedom School at St. Gabriel has linked with Oakhurst STEAM Academy for six years now, with the goal of reducing the summer learning loss for about 50 kids. There are two three-week sessions, with an opening for a Harambee Reader to kick things off in the morning June 18-July 6. Its only 10 minutes of the half-hour jazzing up, but when Laura Hull said, “Boy, do we need some male readers!” a magic button was pressed.

The focus of these programs is significant. If you haven’t heard about the Chetty Study, it’s a Harvard/UC Berkeley project that found Charlotte ranked last (4.4%, San Jose was tops at 12.9%) of 50 major cities in economic mobility, essentially how many children rise from the bottom of one economic quadrille to top of it as an adult.

Early care and education is one of three primary factors that correlated with economic mobility, and one specific and very relevant fact is that students not reading to grade level by fourth grade are almost destined to fall further behind as reading-writing needs/material become more difficult.  The Task Force goal to have 80% of Char-Meck students reading at that level is lofty—its currently only 39%, with Afro-American (22%) and Hispanic boys (18%) lagging significantly.

As a writer, its somewhat simplistic to state that reading made a major difference along the way for me. While a well-regarded high school journalism program and college sharpened the tools,  knowing words (comprehension) and structure was the start. I had a ninth grade reading level in second grade, but I doubt that walking two blocks to a book mobile– my childhood included one available in a bank parking lot every Friday for years– is an option kids have in 2018.

Early care and education is one of three primary factors that correlated with economic mobility. One specific, very relevant fact is that students not reading to grade level by fourth grade are almost destined to fall further behind as reading-writing needs/material become more difficult.

As a Wyzant tutor, I’ve focused on reading-writing-public speaking, and being able to see real progress with an 8th grader’s comprehension after a simple suggestion about pausing for punctuation during a second session was meaningful to both of us.  While she’d blazed through several paragraphs in a book, her comprehension of individual ideas was obviously jumbled, so making that kind of a difference counts.

As Director-writer for SCHOBY (South Carolina Hugh O’Brian Youth) leadership program, even ten minutes of coaching before the groups of high-caliber rising juniors began doing group essays had the effect of focusing them, which improved the quality of product that was edited into a read-along, Aesops Fables-type children’s book.

It was pointed out during the lunch presentations that the non-academic period of year is where support lags and students in high-poverty schools fall back. Because those SCHOBY kids are the 90-95 percentile achievers, the point of extra help becomes even more valid—  many students need a much greater push compared to what those Ambassadors required.

Four programs worth learning about

Augustine Literacy Project – (Fall 2018) Structured, explicit lesson plan format, tutor twice a week during school time for 1 ½ years (60 hours of tutoring), is quite a commitment. Two weeks of training ($250 cost for materials is generally handled by scholarship). Free, long-term, one-on-one instruction is their goal, because 74% of poor third grade readers are still poor readers in ninth grade.

Heart Math Tutoring – Executive Director Emily Elliot stressed that “Growth in concepts counts. The nature of math as yes/no answers means that enthusiasm and academic confidence increases when the student gets the 1-1 help that makes the difference in understanding.”  Their success—98% of students have met program growth goals—is admirable. (Fall 2018)

The Padres y Padrinos (Parents and Godparents or ’PYP’) program is a LAWA (Latin Americans Working for Achievement) project that has addressed the academic and social development of ESL students in East and South Charlotte elementary schools since 1992. They need volunteer commitment to 14 or 28 weeks of one hour per week for reading and basic math skills.

Ten minutes a day for ONE day as the Harambee Reader? I put myself in, and if I won’t immediately promise to get money for supplies, or extra people to listen to kids read for an hour on the July 18th Great Day of DEAR (Drop Everything and Read), I also refuse to be someone with good intentions who fails to do the least that can be done.

To participate in or learn more about any of the programs, please contact Annette Dreyer at annette.dreyer@yahoo.com.

3 thoughts on “Never let it be said you didn’t do the least that could be done

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