East Side Learning Center had to discontinue tutoring mid-March when schools closed. Our staff and board members have been working remotely to develop a plan for online literacy tutoring when face-to-face tutoring is not possible.
Despite the unusual setback, the children made consistent progress, based on mid-year data:
During quarantine, we have not been able to support struggling learners, 80% of whom live in poverty. All of our tutored students face significant obstacles to learning, such as undiagnosed disabilities, language and cultural barriers. All are behind in literacy development. Research indicates that children who are not reading well by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school, repeat the cycle of poverty or even face incarceration. We want more for our children.
Emerging data suggests that learners are expected to fall even further behind while schools are closed and the personal connection is diminished. Consider, Rahid:
"The connections our tutors build with students make all the difference. I am thinking about one student. To protect his privacy, we will call him Rahid. He struggled with foundational letter sounds and phonics skills. The tutor quickly learned that Rahid had a hard time working with new adults. Rahid would not share anything about himself. As the year progressed, the tutor worked to build a relationship with Rahid by not missing a day and by being consistently supportive. The Literacy Mentor used a combinations of hands-on phonics activities and culturally accessible read-aloud books that interested Rahid. Eventually, Rahid began to trust and work with his Literacy Mentor to become a better reader. The stronger their relationship became, the easier it was for Rahid to learn." - Alyssa Hamel, Site Coordinator
This is precisely the power of meaningful relationships being the key to learning. This is what East Side Learning Center is known to do. Children become confident, they develop social emotional skills all while building foundational literacy skills. Additionally, we are giving our Literacy Mentors, many of whom are senior citizens, a built in connection to the world around them.
ESLC plans to serve 400 children if schools re-open come fall. If schools stay closed, we need to be there to serve as many children as possible online. We don't wan to to lose our primary focus on relationships and individualization. We are working on developing a means to deliver online literacy tutoring. Next year the goal is to connect ESLC Site Coordinators with six or seven classroom teachers would could refer four to six children for one-on-one, face-to-face, online literacy tutoring. Through this, we estimate we could connect at least 200 children with a committed Literacy Mentor. In this model, we could also engage more volunteers because of the allowed flexibility in scheduling,
Working within the less-then-desirable circumstances provides a sliver of hope and excitement. You could make the difference in the life of a child who is struggling to adapt to online learning. You could make the difference in the life of a child who is struggling with literacy. But this moment could be great for children, like Rahid, who could catch up in their literacy skills over the summer or any time that school is closed. ESLC would still be there to provide support and highly trained literacy mentorship. As always, ESLC provides tutoring at no cost to families. But we need you to make online learning possible for the children and for ESLC.
We know many people are struggling. We want to help you and, if you can, we want to provide ways for you to make a difference right now in your neighborhood and for struggling readers.