01/25/05 — Three middle schools to get after-school program

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Three middle schools to get after-school program

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 25, 2005 2:03 PM

An after-school program designed to improve end-of-grade test scores for middle school students has been funded through a grant and is drawing support from several groups.

The Wayne County public schools and Wayne County 4-H collaborated in obtaining a 21st Century Learning Communities Grant, which is worth $400,000 over the next four years.

Howard Scott, director of the Wayne County Cooperative Extension Service, said representatives of several organizations gathered last spring to discuss the needs of young people in the county. The greatest need, he said, was an after-school program for middle school youth.

Three middle schools would particularly benefit from such a service, Scott said. When the group learned that grant money was available through the state Department of Public Instruction, a proposal was submitted.

The program began this month at Brogden, Dillard, and Goldsboro middle schools.

Dr. Ruby Bell, director of the middle grades for the school system, said the emphasis is on raising test scores.

"With 'No Child Left Behind,' the majority did not meet those standards," she said. "Our mission and focus is to improve performance for students that perform at levels 1 and 2."

The goal is to raise the scores so that students earn a "3" or "4" on the mandated tests.

Dr. Bell said the after-school program goes beyond academics into such areas as drama, arts, and dance. It is also designed to improve attitudes and behaviors in the youth, and encourages parent involvement.

Several groups are supporting the project. While Wayne County 4-H runs the after school program itself, the Family Y is sponsoring a mentoring program, Scott said.

"High school students will go through training and mentor the students," he said.

Communities in Schools will back a leadership development program for students, with the Boys and Girls Club to provide leisure recreation and fitness.

Rebuilding Broken Places and Wayne Uplift will take care of the adult component, Scott said, working to involve parents in supporting their children.

The program also consists of tutoring and will carry over into "Saturday Academies" at the schools to further shore up the academic skills. There are plans to offer programs during the summer, also.

"We're not making it just 'going to school,'" Scott said. "It's got to be adjusted to the needs of the young people."

Dr. Bell said letters have been sent out to parents of students who scored lower on the math and reading tests last year. Home visits have also been made to communicate the important role the program can play in this year's scores.

Scott said right now, because of the grant's guidelines, the after-school program can only accommodate those students who scored "1" or "2" on the end-of-grade tests. The ratio of staff to students is expected to be 1 to 15.

"This will give us more intense enrichment and also allow us to work closer with the students," Dr. Bell said. "I think this is a wonderful program. I'm looking forward to the successes it can produce for us."

Scott said an advisory committee is also being organized, made up of students and other stakeholders from each school. The committee will meet periodically to assess the progress and customize the program as needed.

"We wanted this program to be the grass roots," he said. "We have to know what the needs are in order to respond to them."