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Education is the cornerstone of individual and community success. It is essential for finding and keeping a job with a livable wage and health benefits. The ability to read is a powerful predictor of later academic achievement and success in life. When kids can't read, they can't succeed. Research shows that a student who is not at least moderately successful in reading by the end of third grade is unlikely to graduate high school.
A major community initiative that launched during the 2010-2011 school year, Schools of Hope helps children build the critical reading skills needed to succeed in school and life. United Way is leading a coordinated effort to close the reading achievement gap throughout California's North Coast by partnering with the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County, school districts, offices of education, principals, non-profit organizations, teachers, parents, literacy experts, businesses and individual donors.
In a region where less than half of third-graders currently read proficiently, and more than three-quarters of English Language Learners read below proficiency, Schools of Hope engages community volunteers to raise third grade reading proficiency to at least 90% by 2020.
One-on-one tutoring is the centerpiece of the strategy to increase literacy. Tutor training is provided by volunteers based on a common training curriculum developed by local reading specialists and primary grade teachers. In addition, the Schools of Hope initiative aims to increase family engagement to take learning beyond the classroom. We know each educational environment is unique, therefore, we are working closely with school districts, principals, teachers and parents to ensure Schools of Hope works with, and enriches, our school district's existing K-12 curriculum.
Schools of Hope History
In 2009, United Way of the Wine Country published On Our Watch: Opportunity for All, a call to action examining local education data and describing promising practices that could enable all of our children to achieve their full potential. Following the release of the report, United Way pulled together working groups of local experts from six elementary school districts, the Sonoma County Office of Education, and many other non-profit partners to further develop a literacy initiative that will meet our region's unique needs. The working groups based our local initiative on a set of best practices from a similar Schools of Hope program launched in Dane County, Wisconsin, where they virtually eliminated the reading achievement gap in ten years. Based on the program model to be used in Sonoma County, United Way partnered with Decade of Difference: 2020 Initiative to also launch Schools of Hope in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties.
In October 2010, Schools of Hope was launched in six Sonoma County elementary schools and in 14 schools within Humboldt and Del Norte. In this pilot year, more than 260 community volunteers were recruited, trained and placed at schools to provide at least 30 minutes weekly one-on-one tutoring to kindergarten through second grade students. At the end of the year, teachers reported that 100% of tutored students showed improvement in reading and in their attitude toward reading. Mid-year assessments also showed a 31% increase in the number of tutored students reading at grade level after 12 weeks or less of tutoring.
In Sonoma County the program will expand to serve second grade students at all current schools during the 2011-2012 school year. In addition, three new elementary schools will be added, requiring approximately 400 volunteer tutors.
In Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, the program will continue to expand with an increase in volunteers, students served and the number of school sites that utilize the program. Eventually, Schools of Hope will support every kindergarten through third grade student in the region who needs the extra help with their reading.
Schools of Hope Informational Materials
Schools of Hope Flyer
Schools of Hope Poster (with space for orientation dates)
Schools of Hope Bookmark
Schools of Hope Newsletter Blurbs
"Help A Child" 160x600
"Help Raise Literacy Rates" 250x250
"Become A Literacy Tutor" 539x90
"Raise Literacy Rates" 671x90
Schools of Hope Logos