Making a Difference in the Community
Campaign for Grade Level Reading Successes
Delray Beach, Florida
Small things are making a big difference for the students at Pine Grove Elementary School.
One of four Title One public elementary schools in Delray Beach, Florida and one of seven public elementary schools, Pine Grove is a school in which 100 percent of the students qualify for free lunches and free breakfast. Many are children of immigrants who are not native English speakers. Like 80 percent of the other third grade students in Delray Beach, only a handful of Pine Grove students receive a meaningful academic experience during the summer, which leads to a steep summer learning slide, and only 29% are proficient readers by 3rd grade.
But through a partnership with the school, the city and the community, 80 kindergarten students received summer book bags in 2012 and the result was a 23 percent increase in summer reading gains just by providing access to books. In 2013, thanks to support from throughout the community, book bags went to more than 500 students at Pine Grove and other schools where summer reading gains are expected to increase.
Since the start of its Campaign for Grade Level Reading, partnerships including business and community leaders, city officials, the county’s Children’s Service Council, other non-profit organizations and of course our school district, have helped Delray Beach accomplish a collection of successes in all public elementary schools that are already showing signs of making an impact.
Here are some highlights:
Attendance – Perfectly Punctual Campaign
In Delray Beach elementary schools, 8 percent of our students miss more than 18 days a year of school because of absenteeism. 20 percent of our students miss between 10-17 days of school. To help drive these numbers down, Delray Beach launched a pilot program called Perfectly Punctual Campaign™ in which children and parents are recognized for getting to school on time and for regular attendance. This positive reinforcement program raises awareness of the importance of attendance among parents and the community and which also helps us collect useable data, is showing signs of success in reducing absenteeism. In fact at Pine Grove the absenteeism decreased by 70% in the first semester of its implementation. In addition, the City will be proclaiming September as Attendance Awareness Month and launching the Mayor’s Attendance Campaign citywide with a program called Rise and Shine! Get to School on Time! For those schools that are not participating currently in the Perfectly Punctual Campaign™
Summer Learning –Summer Camp Initiative
It is estimated that more than 2,000 children in Delray Beach have no summer academic enrichment programs. To help reduce that number, Delray Beach worked with several organizations to implement summer reading programs at camps and at activities in 2012 and expanded the offerings in the summer of 2013. Academic elements were incorporated into daily activities at the two summer camps operated by the City of Delray Beach and at three sites operated by our non-profit partner Achievement Center for Children and Families. This led to 900 students receiving the same two hours of integrated academics four days a week for the eight week summer camp session.
The biggest Summer Learning success was the alignment of resources to provide, for the first time in 5 years, a summer camp program at Pine Grove Elementary School. It is estimated that the collaborative partnership provided $200,000 worth of resources to enable 120 children at Pine Grove to have an enriching summer experience at no cost to the parent. Each child received a free summer camp voucher $100 per week for the 8 week summer camp session ($800 value), free breakfast, lunch and snack, use of school district property including janitorial services, and academic programming with a theme of Medieval Times, and professional development for staff. It will not be a surprise if these children not only stemmed summer learning loss, but made learning gains over the summer! The City has a Data Sharing Memorandum of Understanding and will be anxiously awaiting the results!
School Readiness – Expanding Head Start and VPK
Florida has a free voluntary pre-kindergarten program (VPK) which has proven extremely successful. 75 percent of Delray Beach public school students attend VPK. To help raise the school readiness percentage to 90 percent, Delray Beach has worked closely with community leaders and school officials to help introduce a head start program at one of our four Title 1 schools and a VPK program at yet another school. In addition, 50 new VPK spots have been allocated to a successful private program. Further, our continuum school Village Academy has added this year a pre-natal component so it now provides services from birth to 12th grade. All of these expansions can be contributed to the City being part of the National Campaign for Grade Level Reading.
Communications/Community Outreach – Delray Reads Day
Recognizing that making inroads to improve third grade reading requires a community wide effort, Delray Beach’s Campaign for Grade Level Reading created Delray Reads Day, in which 260 members of the community volunteered to read on Nov. 8, 2012 from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Led by a volunteer committee, Delray Reads Day made it possible for a community member to be in every public elementary school classroom simultaneous. A kick-off breakfast that morning featured a national speaker. Through the program, community members were able to see first hand what goes on in the schools and our educators and students saw the commitment community members were willing to make on their behalf.
While all of our schools are benefiting from our Campaign for Grade Level Reading, a look at Pine Grove Elementary as a positive example may be the best way to illustrate the success Delray Beach is having.