Tuesday, July 23, 2013

New focus on Rochester's at-risk male students

Posted By on Tue, Jul 23, 2013 at 12:22 PM

This is a corrected version of this blog
It’s been more than a year since Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas launched efforts to significantly expand the amount of time students spend in school.

The concept, often referred to as expanded learning, usually extends the amount of time students receive instruction in core subjects. And students are also offered afterschool activities designed to help students retain what they’re learning, as well as explore their interests such as art, music, and sports. (Charter school advocates also frequently cite longer school days as crucial to student improvement.)

A new partnership between North East Area Development (NEAD), School 33, and the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education will develop the Literacy Engagement and Achievement Program, or LEAP. The goal for LEAP is to test whether high quality summer and after school programs significantly improve the academic outcomes of some of the city’s most at-risk children—particularly African-American and Hispanic boys.

LEAP will consist of new and existing wrap-around services over a three-year period for students in the Beechwood neighborhood in the city's northeast section. Some of the program's components include a new after school program, individualized literacy instruction for K-3 students, and mentoring for students and families.

The program is funded through a grant of approximately $1 million from the federal 21st Century Learning Center Program.

What’s most intriguing about LEAP is that it pools the community’s resources and draws on some strategies we already know can be effective at improving student achievement: wrap-around services, more time on task with individualized support for students who need it, and developing meaningful parent relationships.

School board member Van White has been urging the board and Vargas to take a closer look at NEAD’s work with the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School for some time, possibly to replicate the school. While the latter may or may not be possible, it’s important that the SED’s funding of LEAP leads to the transfer of knowledge for wider success in the city’s schools where it is so desperately needed.

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