Innovators in Critical Reading and Writing Win National Grants Competition
AWARDS FOLLOW REVIEW OF 550 APPLICANTS
LANSDOWNE, VA - When 300,000 students took the new SAT test this past weekend, they faced a new writing section designed to challenge their critical reading and writing skills. Today, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is awarding four grants totaling $730,000 to support innovative programs across the US concerned precisely with these skills. Each of these programs, though, has bigger ambitions than improving student success on the SAT. Instead, the programs will apply unique out-of-school education practices in critical reading and writing to bolster the overall learning of middle and elementary school students. And while most out-of-school programs serve remedial students, these programs will focus on students from low-income backgrounds who do above grade level work.
The Foundation selected the recipients following a national call for proposals that drew more than 550 applications from nonprofit organizations in 47 states and the District of Columbia. Working in five states - Connecticut, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, and Maryland - the recipients are among America's most innovative programs in critical reading and writing. Details on each recipient are below.
"These programs will enhance perhaps the most important skills of any learned person, critical reading and writing, and for an underserved population - high-ability students from low-income backgrounds," said Dr. Matthew J. Quinn, the Foundation's executive director. "These programs were able to rise above rigorous national competition because they have the special promise of becoming a model for how to inspire and educate students in innovative ways."
The four recipients are
Center for Talent Development (CTD), Northwestern University (Evanston, IL): Founded in 1982, CTD identifies and develops students with exceptional academic ability through concentrated summer educational and weekend programs. With the Foundation's support, CTD and the Evanston-Skokie Public School District 65 will build a new program focused on increasing the number of low- to moderate-income eighth graders who qualify for advanced tracks in high school English, including an evaluation of how a concentration on verbal skills affects student performance. The program will target students' verbal abilities by requiring them to read, evaluate, and write about challenging fiction and nonfiction they would likely not otherwise encounter. The program will initially serve approximately 50 low- to moderate-income middle school students with two years of supplemental summer, Saturday, and after-school instruction. Grant: $198,676 over two years.
The University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education (Athens, GA): Founded in 1957, the Georgia Center provides lifelong learning, including for economically disadvantaged families and children. The grant will enable the center to create a program that assists high-potential, bilingual Latino, and other bicultural students in developing skills that are vital to success in rigorous academic environments and learning about the possibility of postsecondary education. The four-week intensive reading and writing immersion program will serve 80 (40 each year) students from five middle schools in northeastern Georgia, include study on a university campus, and require family involvement. Grant: $132,878 over two years.
Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development (Storrs, CT): Founded in 1990, the University of Connecticut's Neag Center - home of the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented - develops the abilities of young people from diverse backgrounds and conducts related research. With the grant, the center will apply the latest in literacy research and education pedagogy to build a model after-school program in critical reading for low-income students in grades three to six. It will begin with a focus on students in one rural and one urban low-income school district in northeastern Connecticut. The program will also help teachers strengthen their ability to engage students in higher-level reading, and create materials allowing for the easy replication of the program in other school districts. The renowned researcher in youth development, Dr. Joseph S. Renzulli, will oversee the project with the assistance of Drs. Rebecca Eckert and Catherine Little. Grant: $200,000 over two years.
Summer Scholars and the Center for Summer Learning (Denver, CO; Baltimore, MD): Summer Scholars (founded in 1995) of Denver and the Center for Summer Learning (founded in 1992), based in Baltimore, will use the Foundation's support to partner on implementing and evaluating a two-year pilot program designed to prevent the loss of learning that students typically experience during the summer, a problem which is more serious for low-income students. The program, named Achievement Plus!, will serve 50 third graders from low-income communities in each city with six weeks of daily after-school summer instruction in high-level reading and writing. Each student will have demonstrated the potential for high academic achievement. The program will also connect the students with services available from the youth talent programs at the University of Denver and Johns Hopkins University. Grant: $200,000 over two years.
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