Children’s Literacy Project
The Staten Island Foundation places a strong emphasis on the ability to read and write fluently as the basis for a high quality education that prepares students to become productive members of the community. With this in mind, The Foundation launched the Children’s Literacy Project in 2007. Working in partnership with education leaders of District 31 of the New York City Department of Education, the board of directors of the Foundation made investments toward an ambitious goal to see that every child on Staten Island read at or above grade level.
There have been two rounds of grant funding of up to $25,000 to Staten Island public elementary schools:
- For the 2007-2008 school year, 39 Staten Island public elementary schools received funding, totaling $936,640.
- For the 2008-2009 school year, 37 Staten Island public elementary schools received funding, totaling $892,232.
Grants have provided principals with professional development resources in literacy for teachers, since high quality teachers are critical to student achievement.
It is important to the Foundation that we see a return on our investment and progress toward attaining our goal. The Foundation has been very mindful of the great challenges faced by our community’s schools and their principals and we know that principals are accountable for student achievement as part of current school reform. Therefore, to participate in the Staten Island Foundation Children’s Literacy Project, principals agreed to set measurable literacy goals in the form of student achievement for their schools and report on their progress. The Foundation has made every effort to use data that is already being collected by schools and to work with schools to support programs that have proven to show results.
Examples of programs that have proven to be successful in providing professional development in literacy for teachers and helping students meet state standards which have been funded by the Foundation as part of the Children’s Literacy Project include: Leveled Literacy Intervention; Reading Recovery; Literacy Support Services; America’s Choice; Teachers’ College’s Reading/Writing Project; Good Habits, Great Readers; Winsor Sonday Learning Systems, Breakthrough Through To Literacy, Independent Investigative Method, and Lindamood Bell.
Enthusiasm generated by the Children’s Literacy Project has been universal and very strong; particularly for strengthening instruction in writing, and to meet the challenges for English Language Learners and Special Education students. Effective on-going professional development has been a catalyst for creating an exciting new culture within local elementary schools.
New York City Department of Education District 31 Superintendent Margaret Schultz shared this enthusiasm and cited the Children’s Literacy Project as a contributing factor in a recent report to the district Community Education Council that showed the number of students reading at or above grade level on state reading exams increased by 5.2% in 2008 (with a 4.9% increase for ELL students and 5.8% for special ed students.)
The Foundation engaged external evaluators, Drs. Rebekah Fassler and Rene Parmar of St. John’s University to review public elementary school data submitted for the 2007-2008 school year. They found that all schools receiving grants for professional development to increase students’ literacy skills made statistically significant progress toward their anticipated goals.
In addition, for the 2008-2009 school year, the Children’s Literacy Project was expanded to offer support to local Catholic schools. Twenty-two Staten Island Catholic elementary schools received grants. Grants were awarded for literacy coaches or to expand technology in order to participate in the district’s curriculum mapping project. In connection with this initiative, $65,000 was granted to the district superintendent’s offices for curriculum mapping, project-based learning, and principal leadership training.