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The Voice of the Black Community


Foundation focuses on dropouts
Charlotte Post Foundation program monitors students' classroom progress
Published Thursday, June 4, 2009 11:30 am
by Ellison Clary, For The Charlotte Post

Acting on study results that show many African-American students are doomed to be dropouts, The Charlotte Post Foundation is initiating an effort to help some of those children and monitor their classroom progress.

The Charlotte Post and the Charlotte Post Foundation are taking steps to reduce the dropout rate in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Tahira Stalberte, Foundation board member, talks to News14's Rob Boisvert about about the initiative.

In a pilot program, The Charlotte Post Foundation is sponsoring a number of children who have just finished the second grade at Billingsville Elementary School to attend Freedom School for six weeks this summer. These students have been identified by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools as meeting the Foundation’s profile of those most likely to drop out by ninth grade. 

“We are focused squarely on reducing the dropout rate for African-American students,” said Gerald Johnson, publisher of The Charlotte Post newspaper and head of The Charlotte Post Foundation. “We’ve developed evidence that it is essential to focus on at-risk students before they enter third grade.” 

The Charlotte Post Foundation will evaluate results of the pilot effort and decide how to move forward, Johnson said.

Freedom School is designed to increase a love of literacy, said Tahira Stalberte, media and community relations specialist for CMS.
“The school teaches skills that help students build their self-esteem and generate positive attitudes toward learning,” Stalberte said.
Johnson said The Post Foundation wants to help children who attend the most academically challenged CMS campuses to achieve greater learning and stay in school until they finish the 12th grade.

“We will monitor their progress and find out what works,” he said. “Then we will emphasize these programs for many more students.”

The Freedom School starts June 26 with classes scheduled Monday through Friday until August 1. The sessions under the auspices of CMS are designed to help students retain what they have learned and be better prepared for fall.

Researchers affiliated with the UNC Charlotte Institute for Social Capital Inc. will assess students identified by The Charlotte Post Foundation when they enter Freedom School and again at the end of the summer. This will allow researchers to measure how well the program prevents learning loss that students typically experience during vacation from classes.

As the Freedom School students advance through the third grade and beyond, the Institute for Social Capital research team will also compare these students’ progress with the performance of other children identified as at risk of underperforming but who did not attend Freedom School.

“The Institute for Social Capital’s role is to provide The Charlotte Post Foundation with the scientifically sound data it needs to connect students with those supports that will be most effective in improving their success in school,” said Dr. Sharon Portwood, executive director of the Institute.

Johnson agreed. “We’re searching for programs that can help underperforming students – if we catch them early enough – to learn and stay up to grade level,” he said.

But The Charlotte Post Foundation is going further, Johnson added. It is instituting a process to enhance parent involvement in classroom performance.

Led by board member Lyndon Abrams, a faculty researcher for The Institute for Social Capital, The Charlotte Post Foundation plans to interview parents and guardians of students it is sending to Freedom School. The object is to determine what they need to provide stronger support for the students in their care.

“We will take our cue form what parents tell us,” said Abrams, who is an associate professor in the Department of Counseling at UNC Charlotte’s College of Education. “We will be targeting specific needs of our parents,” Abrams added.

One option for using the information is the CMS Parent University, designed to help parents become more closely involved in the education of their children.  

More information about efforts of The Charlotte Post Foundation will be shared before and during the annual Charlotte Post Best Awards Banquet, scheduled this year for September 19 at the Hilton Center City, Johnson said. At that banquet, The Charlotte Post Foundation will recognize its luminary of the year, teacher of the year and students of the year.

In 2007, The Charlotte Post Foundation expanded its mission, setting a goal to significantly impact learning deficiencies among African-American children in kindergarten through ninth grade. The focus was to drastically reduce dropouts.
The Foundation commissioned the Institute for Social Capital to study students who dropped out of CMS schools in years 2002-2005. Study results showed that more than 87 percent of these students fell below grade level in academic performance by third grade. They never caught up.



Posted on February 12, 2011
I would like some information on "Freedom Schools" I work with 'at risk " youth in South Carolina and the drop out rate in SC is at or over 50%. I would like to help do something about that.
Posted on February 12, 2011

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